The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland
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
The Great Barrier
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
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
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
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.
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.