Early European explorers were frustrated when they found the Great Barrier Reef obstructing navigation between Queensland’s east coast and the open ocean beyond it. Many ships came off second best and foundered amid the over 600 island sand 3,000 reefs, before we had accurate charts.
Len Zell writes in his book Diving and Snorkelling Australia’s Great Barrier Reef that Lieutenant James Cook ‘discovered’ our reef on June 11, 1770 when his sailing ship HMS Endeavor got stuck on it for a whole day after suffering serious damage. They chucked about 50 tons of gear overboard and patched it up sufficiently to ‘nurse it into a river mouth’ a week later.
Full repairs on the beach near modern Cooktown took the best part of two months, where after Cook continued on his epic voyage without understanding the miracle he had tripped over, so to speak. History does not record whether the intrepid explorer sent the boats back to recover the floating barrels of salt meat, hard biscuit and sauerkraut that were their staple diet at sea.
Over 1,500 species of fish feed off the Great Barrier Reef, ranging from silvertip sharks as long as 3 metres to dwarf goby fish the size of your fingernail. Isn’t it time you took a holiday? Over 200 species of birds wheel in the sky above, while out to sea turtles, whales and dolphins roam. We suggest you dive under the watchful eye of an experienced guide. We also have 20 species of venomous sea snakes. Best not touch this spotfin lionfish either!
The reef is currently under assault by crown of thorns starfish that live off coral. Fully-grown ones are 35 centimetres / 14 inches across. They have sharp spikes, so beautiful to behold but please don’t touch! Our reef has fared better than most others have though. We hope scientists find reasons for the sudden population explosions, and figure out how to stop them.
We welcome you to our subtropical paradise of countless reefs and cays. Please respect the usage measures implemented by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park so our reef stays looking good forever, and future generations look back on us with favour. Visit photos from the Catlin Seaview Survey in protected area sand be amazed by the power of photography in these lovely, lonely places.