Yorkey's Knob, AUSTRALIA
26 Feb 2007
|Our ship arrived offshore in Cairns about 6am this morning.
The little red and white pilot boat headed back home at about 7am and by 730am the ships tenders were bobbing up and down in heavy swell waiting for their passengers.
At 9am the blue and white catamaran capable of carrying up to 300 passengers came alongside ready to transport us 15 mile off shore to a floating pontoon from where Lesley and I were to explore the Great Barrier Reef. [GBR]
We are told the GBR is the largest living organism on the planet and is in fact not one reef but a collection of 2900 separate reefs ranging Helsdon Reef in the north to Small Lagoon reef in the south. The Cat was a feisty boat and the seas were rough which made the trip to the reef quite uncomfortable. Many passengers became see sick and could not take part in exploring the reef once we had arrived.
To assist us explore we had the following technology at our disposal. Amphibious helicopters, glass bottomed boats, a semi submersible, compressed air helmets [for walking on the sea bed], snorkelling and scuba diving [even beginners].
The pontoon which was our home for the day was tethered to the sea bed by 4 x 1 ton concrete blocks. We were 15 miles off shore, out of site of land and positioned on Long Reef, almost due east of Cairns. What we saw beneath the waves was beyond my imagination and my ability to describe its wonder, its beauty and the innocent and inquisitive behaviour of the tropical fish together with a sea turtle known locally as George.
We were rigorously but discretely "managed" to ensure our impact on the environment was kept to a minimum. Even the semi submersible was powered by electric motors.
We were accompanied on board by marine biologists and researchers who described to us how they monitored and maintained coral growth including transplanting to barren parts of the reef. Lectures and TV documentaries were available on the Cat as a lunch of salads; mild curried meat and rice were served. Beers, soft drinks and wines were freely available all day albeit not to the crew.
As with so many examples given to us on our cruise the reef is suffering from global warming with temperature rise and bleaching from the sun.
I am convinced God gave us paradise and we have fucked it up!!
How do we stop this madness!!
The reef is a world heritage site and there are many examples of brave and passionate people engaged in conservation programmes.
Among these are included the coral reef fish monitoring programme and the programme to protect the "Dugongs" which are the most gentle docile looking creatures on the planet and which until today I am ashamed I didn't even know existed!!
I think I am slowly beginning to find where I fit in the overall scheme of things. I am probably no more significant than the Dugongs or the tiniest pretty tropical fish that live on the coral reef and in some strange way this makes me enormously happy. I am just one of them and I owe them a great allegiance.
In spite of visibility in the water being poor due to the recent rain and the overcast weather it seemed as if we had been to paradise.
Lesley and I humbly offer our gratitude and admiration to those who work tirelessly to conserve what we have experienced.
We returned to the ship about 5pm where we noticed the ships tenders had been taken out of service due to rough seas and passengers were being returned from the mainland on larger and more robust sea Cats.