One woman’s love with our greatest natural wonder…
Just 12 short years ago, whilst learning to dive in South Australia I met a boy who was to become a very important part of my life and my journey. Not sure if it was the bubbles or the cold Adelaide water temperatures, but amidst all of these amazing underwater adventures we fell in love. We were crazy about each other and diving. Sadly for me, whilst completing our courses, I ruptured my eardrum quite badly. It meant I had to kiss my Scuba Instructor dream goodbye. My own Great Barrier Grief was just beginning.
After 18 months, I followed my main man north so he could complete his Instructor’s course and begin his dream job, taking people diving on the one and only Great Barrier Reef. I was envious to say the least, but was lucky enough to ride on his coat tails on some pretty amazing underwater adventures and he opened my eyes to the wonder that is the G.B.R.
I remember the excitement and thrill I felt the first time I boarded the boat from Port Douglas. This was something I had dreamt of doing for so many years and I could barely contain my excitement. The water was spectacular, crystal clear aqua blue. As you peered down, a gathering of fish were swimming around enthusiastically. As we descended down, I could barely believe my eyes. The coral was every bit as fabulous as I had seen in the pictures.
Bright pinks, oranges, blues, purples. Huge healthy staghorn, gorgonian and sea fan coral jutted out everywhere and made a brilliant background for the abundant tropical fish. Giant purple clams puffed and bellowed if you went too close. Bright pink anemones swayed with the current and housed many a beautiful clown fish. I still remember the thought running through my head that I was in absolute heaven and if, for some unknown reason (like my air running out) my life was to end right at that minute I would be happy. It was truly magical.
Over the next 2 years I spent much of my time diving and snorkelling in this underwater paradise and no matter how many times I went, I was every bit as mind blown. Without fail, every dive I would see turtles, reef sharks and a million other amazing creatures. Blue spotted rays, moral eels, starfish as big as your face, nudibranchs, you name it we saw it, and in abundant numbers. The coral was big, bright and healthy and the marine life equally as plump!
I remember hearing people say that the Great Barrier Reef was in danger and thinking how?? It looked perfectly healthy to me. Only going to last 30 more years. No way. How could it? It’s so healthy? Yes there are crown of thorn starfish but they will work to remove them, yes there are small amounts of dead coral, which, whilst sad is expected when the numbers of reef visitors are so high every day. Now I am an educated person with a passion for the ocean and diving. I have a love for preserving and conserving the environment and if you ask anyone that knows me, I have always been in love with the Great Barrier Reef and for some reason I felt very safe knowing that it was in no grave danger.
Then… Life happened, I graduated from university and had an unquenchable thirst for travel. I set off and spent the better part of the next decade travelling the globe, soaking up the culture and getting involved in all that this world had to offer. I dived in nearly every continent across the world and despite enjoying myself, would always rave about how spectacular and incomparable our Great Barrier Reef was. It was a love that would never die.
I had always had in the back of my mind that when I was done with all my adventures I would find my way back to Port Douglas. When I was offered a teaching job at the local primary school I was excited to say the least. One of my legendary girlfriend’s road tripped across the country with me and the whole way I was like a child on Christmas Eve. Ridiculously excited to be back and to get to be her tour guide on the Great Barrier Reef.
The boat set off on a beautiful, sunny day. 5 knot winds, could not ask for better conditions. Just to top it off, the captain informed us that we were going to one of my favourite dive sites. I was chomping at the bit.
I jumped in, started to descend and my heart nearly broke. The dive site was unrecognisable. The giant coral Bombay was nearly completely bleached. Only about 10-15 percent still had colour, and that which was there was nowhere near the vivid colours once seen. The fish numbers were also ridiculously low compared to what they once were. There were no turtles, no sharks and the sand bottom was completely covered in dead, broken pieces of coral. My head was rattled and I was absolutely horrified by what I was seeing. The next 2 sights were exactly the same. The reef was a mere shadow of what is use to be. I could not believe the damage that had been done in less than a decade.When I got home that night, I cried and cried. I was absolutely horrified. I decided to do some research, and find out the facts.
This is a link to the Greenpeace website, please do take a look.
Here to is a link to another article detailing the issues at hand.
How could our politicians approve a mine that would ultimately lead to the demise of, in my eyes, the grandest, most impressive natural wonder in the world? Combine this with the complete lack of assistance towards preventing climate change and global warming. It makes me ashamed that Australia and the world is not doing more to prevent this atrocity from happening. The reef has no voice, we need to be it. Please don’t just read this and carry on like nothing is happening. Every person’s voice can count. Do your part and fight to protect it before the flame goes out and the magic that is the Great Barrier Reef is no longer.
Written by Emma Whitburn.