The drowned apostles

Five new limestone stacks found under the water along Victoria's coast have boosted the iconic 'Twelve Apostles' Five new limestone stacks found under the water along Victoria's coast have boosted the iconic 'Twelve Apostles'
26 Apr
2016
The Twelve Apostles, a series of great limestone stacks along the coast of Victoria, have long been a cornerstone of Australia’s Great Ocean Road. Last month, five new columns were discovered six kilometres offshore, lying 50 metres underwater

‘We had to check what we where seeing’ says Rhiannon Bezore, a PhD student at the University of Melbourne. ‘No one has seen stacks submerged at this sea level before.’

Reaching up like fingers on a hand, five new additions to the iconic Twelve Apostles were found 50 metres below sea level, ranging between three to six metres high. Using high-resolution sonar mapping, Bezore, along with Dr Daniel Ierodiaconou at Deakin University, detected the stacks while looking for ancient offshore features such as submerged cliffs or river channels as part of a project to map the topography of Victoria’s coastal sea floor.

‘I happened to spot these features fairly close to the current Twelve Apostles. They looked remarkably similar to sea stacks,’ she recalls. ‘After showing the data to my supervisors, we confirmed that they were indeed sea stacks.’

drowned apostlesMap of the newly discovered ‘drowned apostles’ (Image: Rhiannon Bezore)

The stacks have been dubbed the ‘Drowned Apostles’ by scientists and they are understood to be the first examples of limestone stacks preserved in the deep ocean. ‘Sea stacks are generally temporary coastal features,’ says Bezore, ‘with a lifespan of 100 to perhaps 1,000 years.’ This is true of the original Apostles which, over a few hundred years, have eroded from the limestone headland to form nine stacks (despite the titular ‘twelve’). Indeed, as recently as 2005, the number was reduced once more to eight when a stack collapsed into the sea.

‘Only a very fine balance can create sea stacks,’ says Ierodiaconou. ‘The rock needs to be soft enough to erode quickly from a cliff but hard enough to support a rocky pillar.’ The five new stacks, however, have endured the deep sea conditions remarkably well and are thought to date back 60,000 years.

This was published in the May 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Geophoto

Iceland is a sparsely populated country with one of the…

Wildlife

Baltic seals and fish-eating bird populations are increasing and could…

Oceans

The UN has committed to completely stopping plastic waste from…

Wildlife

The world’s most endangered marine mammal has just been thrown…

Climate

Sixty-two of the natural World Heritage Sites are now at…

Oceans

In February 2015, maritime lawyer and cold water swimmer Lewis…

Climate

Water, water may be everywhere, but as Marco Magrini discovers,…

Energy

A deeper look at Scotland’s recent decision to ban the…

Climate

The discovery of increasing levels of ozone-depleting compounds being emitted…

Geophoto

November is a dark, quiet month, but it also marks…

Energy

Could human waste one day be fuelling our homes and…

Geophoto

Every year, the LPOTY awards celebrate the best in Britain’s…

Climate

At the 23rd Convention of the Parties (COP) climate change…

Oceans

Knowing where past coral reefs existed is a crucial component…

Oceans

Numerous low-lying Pacific islands have disappeared under rising seas

Oceans

In this exclusive film for Geographical, see how an unusually…

Climate

Marco Magrini considers why the recent devastation caused by hurricanes…

Geophoto

Country borders are some of the most controlled environments on…

Wildlife

Nature reserves and protected areas in Germany have lost 76…

Oceans

An investigation into shark fins and ray gills sold in…