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13 February 2008
Great Ocean Road
ROGER GRANT: This is the famous Great Ocean Road, regarded as one of the great coastal drives of the world. The Great Ocean Road hugs the whole south-west coast of Victoria. It's also the largest war memorial in the world. Some 3,000 workmen built the Great Ocean Road over a period of about 13 years. And the vast majority were returned soldiers from the First World War. And it was one of the work programs that provided not only employment but the soldiers themselves were very proud to be involved in this as a memorial to all the diggers who lost their lives and fought in the First World War. The road was actually carved out of the cliffs using pick and shovel and horse and dray. It was a monumental effort.
DOUG STIRLING: The cliff was so steep they had to lower the men down on ropes. It was very, very dangerous work. Unfortunately, a lot of the people who were working here were shell-shocked, and when they had the blasting going on it really upset them. But yet there was no casualties on the road, nobody died. Sausage Gully and Shrapnel Gully, they're named after Anzac Cove, which was at Gallipoli in a part of Turkey in 1915 in the Great War. And when they built the Great Ocean Road, some of the men that were in that campaign worked on that part of the Great Ocean Road, they named it after the two big battlefields that were there. I remember when it was officially opened in 1932 and it was a marvellous thing.
MARJ GRANT: When I was 11, there was an article come up in the Melbourne press that two cars couldn't pass on the road. And we had that photograph taken and sent in to say that the road was perfectly safe. Mind you, we picked the only two places where cars could pass.
DOUG STIRLING: When you see the Great Ocean Road today, a beautiful big, wide, sealed road, to what it was when they built it, it was just a muddy little narrow track, very, very dangerous and people were scared stiff.
MARJ GRANT: I remember when it was a very, very rough track, post-and-rail fence along the side, quite a lot of rock falls.
DOUG STIRLING: Well, right behind us here is where the big slip came back in the '70s. All this face of the mountain started to peel off. They drilled holes right through this peeled-off bit back into the base mountain and pinned it all with prestressed concrete. And all these caps capped up the ends of the prestressed stuff. Blocked the road here for about six months, we couldn't get through. And it was all the... It looked like it was all going to push into the sea. But, anyway, they saved the day by pinning it back onto the big mountain again.
BERNADETTE NUNN: So the mountain was literally falling away?
DOUG STIRLING: Falling away into the sea. And it hasn't moved since.
BERNADETTE NUNN: So they literally screwed the mountain back together?
DOUG STIRLING: They screwed the mountain back together again. I don't think it's ever been done before or since. And a lot of people, particularly from Japan, hear about this and they stop and watch this and see where this big marvel took place.
TOM SMITH: The Great Ocean Road is probably the most spectacular coastal drive in the world. And I think the reason for that is that it's got such a variety of experiences - that great coastal aspect in the Apollo Bay/Lorne area then the cool temperate rainforests and, of course, the coastal rock stacks around the Twelve Apostles. You don't get that variety in any other road around the world and for 250 kilometres there's just a surprise around every corner. The reality is that it is a wonderful memorial to the soldiers. There's a lot of people who probably don't appreciate the significance and I think the 75th anniversary celebrations will highlight that very important link between the soldiers who built the road, and I think some of the younger generation are going to go away with a greater understanding about the significance of this road. Not only is it a great coastal drive but also it's a memorial to the soldiers from the First World War.
DOUG STIRLING: It is the most appropriate war memorial because it's the biggest war memorial in the world because it goes for 250 kilometres all along and no war memorial is as big as that.
You remember when the bridle-track used to go around there and along the top there? That was before the Great Ocean Road was built.
MARJ GRANT: That shows you how old we are. How lucky we've been to live in such a wonderful spot and that this road... As I say, we say, "It's our road," but it belongs to the whole world.
DOUG STIRLING: Not a local road anymore, it's an international road of great fame.