The Great Barrier Reef which stretches along the north east coast of Australia
is one of the world's premier SCUBA diving and snorkeling locations. It's also the
largest reef system in the world, and said to be the only living structure
visible from space. Composed of a huge assortment
of corals, including staghorns, plates and mushrooms, it stretches
for 2000 kilometers from the Northernmost tip of tropical Australia nearly
all the way down to the city of Brisbane. At its widest Northern
stretches, it's around 80 kilometers across.
Cairns (January, 2003)
January is far from the ideal time to visit the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns, since this is the rainy season in the tropical parts of the Australian state of Queensland. I didn't experience too much rain, but the skies were often clouded over and the water was very full of sediment, which makes underwater photography very problematic. I've had to spend many, many hours at the computer removing traces of grit from the photos I took. Immediately before arriving in Australia I spent time in Fiji, and together these were the first trips I'd done using a Canon G2 digital camera in an Ikelite housing, instead of a Nikonos V dedicated underwater camera. This meant a learning curve while I figured out how to use it.
One of the most attractive types of fish inhabiting coral reefs around
the world is the butterflyfish. These fish are as attractively
coloured and patterned as their terrestrial namesakes. I've
prepared a butterflyfish
highlights page where you can see all twelve varieties that I saw while
visiting the reef from Cairns.
Townsville (August, 1996)
There are many beautiful fish on the reef, including surgeonfish, angelfish and butterflyfish. However, this being Australia, home of many of the most toxic animals on the planet, there are also plenty of critters you wouldn't want to meet.
One of the most interesting denizens of the reef hardly even moves. The giant clam is a legend in common belief mostly because of its size, and the supposed ease with which it seizes hapless divers by the leg and holds them until they drown. In reality, though, giant clams have to pump the water out of their siphons before they can close their shells, and that process takes several seconds. Any divers who take that long to get their legs out of the way are obviously diving in the shallow end of the gene pool and deserve to be shuffled off to a better place! Quite apart from their size, the most amazing features of these clams is the beautiful patterns and colours of their mantle, or visible flesh. An amazing variety of unworldly colours exist, with considerable variation even within a species.