In our last article on Great Barrier Reef facts, we went through some generic facts that are usually told by almost everyone. Despite being generic, they were pretty interesting. However, we didn’t get to the surprising facts. In this installment of surprising Great Barrier Reef facts, we are going to do that – brush up on some of the most surprising facts that will leave you wondering. Let’s get started.
Surprising Great Barrier Reef Facts: 1-5
1. We usually learn about the seven wonders of world. However, we are not usually told about the Seven Natural Wonders of World. The Great Barrier Reef is one of them.
Just in case you were wondering about the list of Seven Natural Wonders of World, we will make your life simple. Here is the list:
- Aurora Borealis.
- Mount Everest.
- Victoria Falls.
- Grand Canyon.
- Harbor of Rio de Janeiro.
- Great Barrier Reef.
2. The Great Barrier Reef sits on the slopes of Continental Shelf. Here the depth of water averages at 35 meters. However, the moment you drop off the Continental Shelf, you will encounter a depth of 2,000 meters.
3. The coral reef has a natural predator. Wondering who can eat the solid structure? This predator goes by the name Crown-of-Thorns Starfish. This guy is known for stripping living corals off the reef. Good thing however is that the corals are capable of regrowing after a predatory attack.
4. In the reef, what we see today is basically a thin layer of live corals that are no older than 6,000 to 8,000 years. However, underneath that layer lies a thick layer of dead algae and dead corals, which are 500,000 years old.
5. Of the total coral species that are found in this entire world, more than one-third (1/3rd) are found in the Great Barrier Reef alone.
Surprising Great Barrier Reef Facts: 6-10
6. If you really think that the Great Barrier Reef is a single entity, you are grossly mistaken. It is actually a system composed of 2,900 different coral reefs along with cays and islands whose total count stands at 1,050.
7. Ever wondered how fast the corals grow? Their growth rate is 1.5 centimeters in a single year. These slow-growing corals are actually the reef’s backbone. They adapt continuously to the surrounding environment.
8. Now here is something really surprising. Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef has its very own Street View (of course underwater). It was the part of Google’s Underwater Earth project that was launched back in 2012.
9. Google didn’t send a car taped with a camera to capture the street view. It rather used Catlin Seaview Survey Project’s imagery. In case you are not aware of what this Catlin Seaview Survey Project is all about, here is a quick explanation: It was actually an expedition series that was launched in order to survey and explore and also to monitor coral reefs’ health across the world.
10. Visiting the reef will cost you some money in form of tax. The tax rate is USD 6 for a single day for a single visitor. However, the tax is applicable for any visitor who is above the age of 4 years. The money thus collected is taken by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The money is used for protecting and preserving the extraordinary and delicate ecosystem of the reef that is gradually being destroyed by human activities and global climate change.
Surprising Great Barrier Reef Facts: 11-15
11. You may often hear people calling the Great Barrier Reef as the largest single organism on Earth. If so, it would easily beat the Blue Whale. Unfortunately, that is not true. Check out point #6. It is actually a system.
12. However, the reef is definitely the largest organic structure that exists on this planet. There is no other organic structure that is as big as this. This structure is considered as Australian Economy’s asset and is currently valued at USD 42.4 billion or AUD 56 billion (as per Deloitte Access Economics).
13. The reef is not completely covered by corals. The truth is that only 6% to 7% of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is covered by corals.
14. In our last article on the Great Barrier Reef we mentioned that the whole area covered by the reef system is nearly as big as Japan, we didn’t mention that it is actually way bigger than many countries in this world. To give you an accurate picture, the system (if considered as a country), will take the 63rd place in the list of countries organized in order of their size. This means, the reef system will sit between Germany and the Republic of Congo.
15. Even more surprise! The size of the reef (133,000 square miles) that we know today is actually 50% of what it used to be back in 1985 and earlier. AIMS or Australian Institute of Marine Science says that because of the natural predator (Crown-of-Thorns Starfish), storms and coral bleaching, the reef system has been reduced to half its original size since 1985. The study was conducted back in 2012.
Surprising Great Barrier Reef Facts: 16-20
16. Believe it or not the Great Barrier Reef is actually privately owned by Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal Australians and the Government of Australia actually gives monetary compensation to those “Traditional Owners” for using the reef as a national marine property!
17. Will you believe if someone says you that four European explorers completely ignored the reef system during their voyages? It all started back in 1522 when Cristóvão de Mendonça – a Portuguese nobleman reached the reef but yet, decided to completely ignore it. On 1605, Willem Janszoon – a Dutch navigator reached the reef and didn’t document it. A year later in 1606, Luís Vaz de Torres – a Galician seaman reached the reef and he too didn’t document it. Then in 1768, Louis Antoine de Bougainville – an admiral from France, reached the reef. He did make an official record but did not explore the region simply because his crew members were short on life-supporting food supplies. So, he and his crew went to South Asian Coast.
18. Heard of Captain James Cook? He was a British adventurer. The British Government sent Cook on a mission to find a hidden continent near the country of New Zealand and take possession of the continent in name of the British Kingdom. It was 1770 when Cook’s ship – the HM Bark Endeavour was passing through the region and accidentally hit the top of a reef. This caused immense damage to the ship and it had to be anchored and docked for carrying out repair work. It was this accident that led Captain Cook to scout the region and appreciate the majestic beauty of the reef. Thus, the discovery of the Great Barrier Reef is attributed to Captain James Cook.
19. HM Bark Endeavour of Captain Cook was really lucky. However, another passenger ship called SS Yongala was not really that lucky. In 1911, SS Yongala was caught by a cyclone and blown off the eastern coast of Australia. With the master stroke of the ultimate bad luck, the ship was drawn to the bottom of the ocean, drifting away 48 nautical miles farther out from Townsville’s Queensland City. The ship was 350 feet long and today it rests within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park’s perimeter. A wide rage of fish species have now made the sunken ship their home.
20. The Great Barrier Reef is world’s THE MOST DENSELY POPULATED ecosystem. Though we mentioned the type of animals you find in reef system in our previous article, here is another quick revision:
- 400 coral species.
- 300 ascidian species.
- 5000 mollusk species.
- 22 seabird species.
- 32 shorebird species.
- 150 different other bird species.
- Saltwater crocodiles.
- 6 sea turtle species.
- 17 sea snake species.
- 7 frog species.
- 30 cetacea species (porpoises, dlophins and whales).
- Dugongs (largest populations on entire earth can be found here).
- Subantarctic fur seal.
- That’s quite a vivid ecosystem out there. Definitely, the Great Barrier Reef is a place where you should visit soon because sadly, not only the reef is on the move, it is also dying out gradually. Visit this natural wonder before it is gone.