Sharing The Peapod's Travel Adventures...

The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland

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This entry was posted on 3/16/2007 4:30 AM and is filed under Australia.

One of our favorite adventures here was taking the Quiksilver boat out to the Great Barrier Reef.  The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia.

The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is sometimes referred to as the single largest organism in the world.  In reality, it is made up of many millions of tiny organisms known as coral polyps and
is the world's largest coral reef system.  It is made up of 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands and stretches over 1,616 miles, the equivalent of half the size of Texas. 

In 1981 the Great Barrier Reef was selected as a World Heritage Site and is often considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  It is the only place in the world where there are two World Heritage Sites side by side, the other being the Daintree Rainforest.  The nutrient rich drainage from the rainforest supports the diverse life of the coral reef, including many vulnerable, endangered species.  30 species of whales and dolphins have been recorded, as well as 6 species of sea turtles.  200 species of birds have been seen, 17 kinds of sea snakes and more than 1500 kinds of fish all live on the reef.  There are 400 kinds of corals, both hard and soft and 500 species of marine algae or seaweed living on the reef.

Here are some pictures we took from the plane where we could look down on  part of this great expanse.   These reefs are also visible from outer space.  What was so striking for us up in the air were the vibrant blue colors (these photos are not doctored up - they really look like this)...

It took almost an hour to get out to Agincourt reef which is at the very outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef.  Quiksilver has a large permanent pontoon secured out there and we were all given many options for enjoying the beautiful day at the reef.

Here's the permanent Quiksilver pontoon...

If you didn't want to get wet there was a glass walled semi-submersible type submarine which cruised through the reefs for 30 min.  We went on this and saw a large sea turtle and many beautiful fish in addition to all the different kinds of gorgeous coral and sea life very close up.  I thought it would be claustrophobic and exited the sub before it left, but then changed my mind and went back on it.  It turned out to be a super underwater observatory.  And the air-conditioning made it feel more spacious than it was.

Here are a couple of pictures we took from the semi-submersible.  The photos don't do it justice, but at least give you a sense of the incredible diversity of coral life that we saw...

The diversity of coral life was the hallmark of this trip - that and the warmth of the water.  Many of the fish were ones we had seen on snorkel trips before, but the richness of the coral was new.  And we also saw a few giant clams that were magnificent.  Giant - as in over 4 feet long!  Sorry - no pictures.

The Irukandji jellyfish also live there and during certain times of the year it is necessary to wear "stinger suits" to avoid their potentially fatal stings.  There is no antidote for this sting and the victim experiences excruciating nerve pain that can last over a year.  If anyone had been stung they would have been immediately airlifted via helicopter to the hospital in Cairns.  The stinger suits we wore were made of lycra and covered us head to toe.  We were thankful for them as we could see many kinds of jellyfish swimming around us.  The lycra prevents these jellyfish from coming into contact with our warm skin, so they weren't interested in stinging us.

After that we donned our "stinger" suits, masks and snorkels and headed for the water.  The water was warm and once our goggles were adjusted we had a fun time looking at the big fish and the many schools of smaller ones. 

We were surprised by how warm the water temperature was.  Australia experienced its warmest year on record in 2005.  Abnormally high sea temperature causes massive coral bleaching - the white calcium carbonate skeletons of the coral is revealed and the coral dies.  Researchers warn that by 2030 the Great Barrier Reef could be "functionally extinct" due to the change in water temperature.  The greatest threats to this amazing reef is climate change and global warming.

Here are more "stinger suit" clad buddies ready to go exploring the reef...

Other options were "Helmet Diving", where you wear a large glass helmet and breath fresh air that comes from the surface into the helmet.  You put on a weighted vest and sink down to a platform where you can view the fish and keep your hair and body dry. 

Some opted for scuba diving and a few just walked through the underwater viewing room on the lower level of the platform and watched the fish from there.  It was kind of like an aquariurm - except in reverse.  We people were the ones in the container and the fish were the ones with the freedom of movement.

Because they did a couple fish feedings from the platform, it was a favorite place for a lot of very big fish that we could watch from this area of the platform, like these...

There were others who just went through the buffet line a number of times and enjoyed the plentiful and delicious food.

We're glad that we saw one of the top 7 natural wonders of the world, The Great Barrier Reef.


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    • 3/26/2007 8:51 PM David Nipper wrote:
      You dear people! I haven't visited with you for awhile, so am especially thrilled to be seeing and listening in again. I'm going on an annual personal spring retreat next week. As of now, I don't have any plan or any idea of where I'll go or end up. What a magnificent gift you've given each other, what an adventure you are on. I'm honored to know you. D.
      Reply to this
    • 3/31/2007 10:56 AM Mary Hershey wrote:
      Wow!!! Thanks for sharing this, girls. I've always wanted to see the Great Barrier Reef! Incredible! I love the picture of you two in your stinger suits. That MUST be your holiday card, promise! So funny the pix of you all walking around in your suits-- very Treky. Love! Mary Hershey-missing-you-bad!
      Reply to this
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