A woman scuba dives in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Photo from Metro Creative
EXPLORING NATURE: GREAT BARRIER REEF
My first experience of swimming in really deep water came on a long-ago trip to Australia. As part of the tour, we boarded a large boat and motored out over the Great Barrier Reef.
Located off the coast of Queensland, this super reef actually consists of some 2,900 separate reefs, scattered over some 134,000 square miles.
As a native Texan, my main experience with deep water had been walking out into waist-deep water at Galveston and swimming in the 6-foot deep end of a swimming pool. The ocean where we were on the Grea Barrier Reef was some 400-feet deep.
I climbed down the ship’s ladder into the ocean and realized there was no way I could touch bottom here, without going much, much deeper. It was a scary feeling.
Looking down into the crystal-clear water, I could see colorful corals at the ocean floor and I enjoyed my brief swim before climbing back aboard.
Our guide told us reef-building corals are a natural wonder, being part plant, part animal and part mineral. These parts all combine to produce a skeleton of calcium carbonate, or limestone. The final result is a coral reef, the most diverse of all ocean ecosystems.
Unfortunately, many reefs — including the Great Barrier Reef — are in declining health today. This is mostly because of global warming and an increasingly acidic ocean. Much of the world’s coral is bleached white and dying.
I hope it is not too late to reverse this trend. I would hate to think of the Late Barrier Reef.