Saturday, October 6, 2012

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

The Great Barrier Reef 
Lizard Island

The huge and friendly Potato Rockcod

I conclude my discussion of ocean acidification (see October 1st post), with an homage to the Great Barrier Reef. So many years later the dream-like images of the GBR remain indelibly etched in my memory, and it is difficult to grasp how imperiled all coral reefs are due to global warming and ocean acidification. 

While visiting the GBR, I stayed on Lizard Island, a very remote area located 17 miles off the coast of Far North Queensland. An intrepid traveler (that would be me) could easily continue on to Papua New Guinea from there.

It is an easy boat ride from Lizard Island into the heart of  the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. A visit to Cod Hole, where you can meet the affable but goofy Potato Cod (Epinephelus tukula), face to face is a must.

I was excited to learn that dwarf Minke whales are now regular visitors to the GBR Marine Park area. However,  ocean acidification is lethal to krill, the mainstay of the whale diet. Studies show that increased levels of carbon dioxide kill the krill embryos.

From Islands Australia

"Lizard Island will always have a place in Australia's earliest European history. When captain James Cook first explored the east coast of Australia, he became trapped in the waters inside the Great Barrier Reef in the vicinity of Lizard Island. He was unable to locate a passage through the reef to get to the open sea so he landed on Lizard Island and climbed to its highest peak to see where the reefs were located. His efforts were rewarded and he found a passage through the reef that allowed him to escape into the Coral Sea. The passage is now known as Cook's Passage. Cook also named the island after the many monitor lizards he saw there.

"Lizard Island today is still generally the same as it was when Cook visited. The only difference is the addition of an airstrip and a five star resort that has been built on a beautiful bay on the northern side of the island. The island is surrounded by  reefs that provide some of the best dive sites in Australia Some of the most famous dive sites like Cod Hole and the drop offs along the Ribbon Reefs are located close to Lizard Island.

"A new phenomenon also now attracts many tourists. A large group of dwarf Minke Whales are now being seen on a regular basis by divers in the area. These whales have become very inquisitive and have provided a fantastic and exciting new draw for the region."

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