The Great Barrier Reef, a magnificent natural wonder located off the northeast coast of Australia, comprises the largest coral reef system in the world. This underwater world is a perfect choice for those who love the ocean and its denizens. Some marine creatures have been living within this reef since prehistoric times. The beauty of the Great Barrier Reef above and beneath the surface of water attracts over two million tourists every year. Here are a few interesting tidbits about this marvel that you may not know.
1 Discovered on a Secret Mission
The reef was found accidentally by European naval officer, James Cook in 1770. He and his team were on a scientific mission to study an eclipse of Venus. He carried secret orders to continue on after the scientific mission was completed to search for a secret “Southern Continent” near New Zealand. The Endeavour, his ship, suddenly got stuck on previously uncharted reef. It took six weeks to repair the vessel. Earlier European sailors had passed through the area, skirting the reef without realizing its size and importance.
2 Largest Living Structure on the Earth
The Great Barrier Reef, stretching 2300 kilometers and over 14 degrees of latitude, is so big that it can be easily seen from the space. It spreads over an area of over 134,000 square miles along the coastline of Queensland, Australia. T. It covers almost the same geographic area as Japan or Italy. This is the equivalent of almost 70 million football fields.
3 Living Coral
Thе rееf іѕ аn аggrеgаtе оf 2900 coral rееfѕ аnd 1050 islands аnd сауѕ. Essentially, Nеmо hаѕ оnе еxtrеmеlу roomy hоmе. At 8000 уеаrѕ оf аgе, the thin lауеr of lіvіng coral thаt mаkеѕ uр thе Great Bаrrіеr Rееf іѕ a ѕрrіng chicken contrasted wіth thе 500,000-year old dеаd соrаl аnd green growth layers that lie undеrnеаth. Hard соrаl grоwѕ uр tо 1.5cm еvеrу уеаr and is thе foundation of the rееf, dеvеlоріng аnd соntіnuаllу adjusting tо nature around it.
4 A Sunken Ship Under the Reef
Unlike the James Cook, the SS Yongola was not able to escape from the clutches of reef. In 1911, the passenger ship sank to the bottom of the Pacific due to a cyclone. It took 50 years to locate the wreck, which is protected under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976. Now this huge size ship has become home to numerous marine species and is considered one of the world’s finest shipwreck dive sites. Over 10,000 divers explore the site under permit each year.
5 One of the Densest Ecosystems the Planet
Mоrе than 500 (оr 33%) оf thе wоrld’ѕ coral ѕресіеѕ саn bе fоund in thе Grеаt Barrier Reef Wоrld Heritage Arеа. In addition to coral, there are many living organisms that live in the Great Barrier Reef. Thе reef іѕ a clamoring ѕubmеrgеd сіtу – hоmе to mоrе thаn 1500 tуреѕ оf fіѕh, 215 types оf feathered creatures, more thаn 5000 tуреѕ of mоlluskѕ, six оf thе wоrld’ѕ ѕеvеn tуреѕ оf mаrіnе turtles, including the endangered hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback and green turtles and the olive ridley and flatback, which are on the verge of being endangered, 30 tуреѕ оf whаlеѕ аnd dоlрhіnѕ, аnd оnе оf thе world’s mоѕt essential dugоng populaces.
6 What in the World Is a Dugong?
Dugongs, or sea cows, are the only completely herbivorous mammals in Australia. While dugongs are found throughout Australia, most live at the reef. As per the report of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, these sea cows weigh nearly 900 pounds, grow to 3 meters in length, and can live up to 70 years. They are closely related to the manatee and share a common ancestor with elephants.
7 Natural Wonder of the World
In 1981, UNESCO declared the Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site and includes it in the list of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Access to the reef is limited; 1500 aircraft and 820 operators are allowed to operate in this reef.
8 The World’s Fish Bowl
Ten percent of the world’s fish species call the Great Barrier Reef home. The reef houses approximately 1600 species including species of sea perch, pufferfish, butterfly fish, clownfish etc. The most common fish varieties found in the Great Barrier Reef are tusk fish, wrasses and damselfish.
The Great Barrier Reef also boasts the Giant Clam, the largest clam in the world and also one of the most endangered. A giant clam can live up to 100 years and weigh in at over 400 pounds. When a clam finds its suitable living place, it will stay there until it dies, feeding on algae and plankton. The clam opens its shell each day to allow the algae that lives within, and which provides its main food source, to conduct photosynthesis.
9 Underwater Street View
The Google has allowed its users to view the wonderful pictures of the Great Barrier Reef by updating its database and initiating the Underwater Earth Project. The data collected in the Catlin Seaview Survey plan exploring the health of different coral reefs is used by the Google to display underwater images.
10 Sex on the Reef
November is a very special for the reef as it participates in a huge spawning which is called the most significant moment of reproduction on the earth. Coral are hermaphrodites, producing both eggs and sperm. The coral expel eggs and sperm en masse to increase the chance of fertilization. This occurs for about a week each year and is responsible for all reproduction of the coral, which is essential to the health of the reef. The factors responsible for mass spawning may be water temperature and moon phases.
11 Threats to the Great Barrier Reef
In October, Outside Magazine Online, declared that the Great Barrier Reef was “dead.” This was not meant literally, but was an indication of how dire scientists believe the situation to be. A mass bleaching event afflicted the reef earlier this year, but scientists believe that efforts can still be made to reverse the damage. Bleaching is believed to be caused by the increase in ocean temperatures and acidity due to global warming. This reef experiences many threats due to illegal fishing, degraded water quality, climate change and the natural predator of coral reefs, such as the crown-of-thorns starfish.
The Great Barrier Reef has been reduced to half its size since 1985 as per the report of Australian Institute of Marine science. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority charges a daily reef tax of $6 per visitor to help save the delicate ecosystem.
Although the Great Barrier Reef has been growing and providing a home to all sorts of aquatic life for over 25 million years, it is facing a real challenge. The Australian government, Australian Marine Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Foundation have been making concerted efforts to protect this unique treasure and ensure that visitors can continue to enjoy its spectacular beauty for generations to come.