The Great Barrier Reef

Australia’s Natural Wonder: The Great Barrier Reef!

Reef

This morning our group adventured to the Great Barrier Reef for the first time and had the time of our lives! How many people can say that they’ve seen and interacted with one of the seven natural wonders of the world!?

For those who are curious like us, here are a few facts about the Great Barrier Reef to put into perspective what we encountered.

  • The GBR is the world’s largest coral reef
  • It is the only living thing that is visible from space
  • Marine park stretches over 300km (1800 miles)
  • Houses over 400 kinds of coral and 1500 species of fish
  • Protects Australia from major cyclones (hint: The Great BARRIER Reef)

(source: http://www.greatbarrierreef.org/about-the-reef/)

Our group took a boat to the Northern Great Barrier Reef, departing Cairns and boating over an hour to get to our underwater paradise. Some of us tried scuba diving for the first time and others snorkeled. No matter what your method of sightseeing was, there was no doubt a plentiful abundance of beauty.

This part of our trip was very special to a lot us who are involved in the marine life education. For Theresa, this solidified her want of becoming a marine biologist. For Jennie, it carried on the spirit of travel. Another special part of this trip to the reef was that we all experienced different things, despite being in the same place. If you were to talk to every one of us, you would have been told 17 different stories of what they saw and what they thought of their experience in the reef. Some of us saw sharks, many were greeted by schools of fish floating around their bodies, and others were given the opportunity to touch a sea turtle.

Despite these positive insights, there were moments that drew us back and made us think about human influence on the reef. Coral bleaching, while not commonly heard of is an issue that is prominent in the reefs today. The bleaching of coral happens when the naturally occurring algae that lives on coral is disturbed. The algae removes itself from the coral, and the coral turns to its natural white color and dies. There are many factors that influence the bleaching of coral such as rising temperatures and ocean acidity. During our lesson on the boat, we were told that just a two-degree increase in ocean waters affects the coral. During our water experience, we saw the bleached coral. Some of it was still attached to its pre-existing homes, but there was a significant amount that lied at the bottom of the ocean. What those who are reading this blog may not know is that Jennie, one of our students on this trip, came to Australia 10 years ago and was able to revisit the Great Barrier Reef. In her experience 10 years ago, she recalls little to no bleaching, while her visit today she sat astonished on how so many places could change in little time.

I think there were a lot of memories taken away from today’s trip, and this will definitely be something that we will never forget. The boating crew were extremely helpful in difficult situations, and their enthusiastic behavior allowed us to enjoy the trip more!

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By: Jennie Feldpausch and Theresa Duffy

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