Yesterday, we entered the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Area. The park is the length of the west coast of America and has 2500 reefs with 3500 different kinds of coral. Coral are living beings that attach themselves to underlying rock. The reef is endangered by a number of environmental factors, the most significant of which is the warming of the sea water. Tourist visits are limited and we did not get to dive or snorkel there; however, these photos are what it looks like. They were taken at the Aquarium in Townsville, Australia, which we visited today.
The Aquarium is constantly studying the health of the reef and working to understand the complexity of the ecosystem. They grow as many coral as possible to allow people to see these amazing sights, however, many types of coral require deeper water and different nutrients from what they can provide.
The Aquarium also operates a turtle hospital which we visited. There, we learned about the dangers of plastic to the turtle population. Once they have eaten enough plastic they begin to float and then die. A study of 50 turtles showed that 100% of the turtles had some plastic in their stomach. Apparently, the turtles can’t tell the difference between jellyfish and clear plastic. I’ve often said our packaging is going to be the end of me, but it may be the end of the turtles, too. Tomorrow, I’m excited to visit the rain forest canopy.