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The Great Barrier Reef was birthed during the Miocene Epoch period (somewhere between 23.7 and 5.3 million years ago). Amazingly, the reef almost ‘drowned’ 125,000 years ago when the polar ice caps melted and the oceans rose quickly. The Reef struggled but was finally able to adapt to its new sea levels and thrive to become the reef we see today.
In 1981, The Great Barrier Reef became the first coral ecosystem to receive World Heritage status. Since then, 29 sites have followed in its footsteps, including Tubbataha Reef Natural Park (Philippines) and the Lagoons of New Caledonia (France).
It is written into the World Heritage Agreement that should there ever be a war involving Australia, ‘no country should damage it (The Great Barrier Reef)’.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural world and is the single largest living ecosystem in the world. It can be seen from space!
The Great Barrier Reef is enormous! For context, it is longer than the Great Wall of China, the size of Italy or Japan, ½ the size of Texas, or larger than the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands combined.
Although The Great Barrier Reef is vast, coral covers an area of only about 6-7% of it.
The first documented European to ‘discover’ The Great Barrier Reef was French Explorer Louis de Bougainville in 1768. However, he only made it as far as Cooktown before rough seas forced him back towards Asia, missing mainland Australia and the thousands of kilometres of spectacular reef that shoulder it.
English explorer Captain James Cook discovered The Great Barrier Reef in 1770. Sent on a secret mission to discover the ‘Southern Continent’ of Australia, Cook made an arguably more important discovery when he ran aground on the world’s biggest living structure. Indigenous Australians have inhabited mainland Australia for 40,000 years and have used The Great Barrier Reef for hunting and survival. Due to the cultural and spiritual significance of to the Indigenous Australians, they are recognised by the Australian government as the ‘traditional owners’ of the Reef.
What’s in a name?! The Great Barrier Reef gets its name due to the presence of a ‘barrier’ which protects the shallow waters along the shore from the open sea.
The Great Barrier Reef attracts over two million visitors each year from across the globe who each leave taking a piece of the reef with them in their heart forever!