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Great Barrier Reef

(Coral Sea)

Great Barrier Reef Great Barrier Reef On the two thousand three hundred kilometers from the island of New Guinea to the Tropic of Capricorn stretches along the east coast of Australia almost continuous range of three thousand and thousands of reef islands that make up together an amazing and beautiful creation of nature - the Great Barrier Reef.

Due to the fact that many of the islands increase their area during low tide, and others and generally appear from under the water only during those hours, the exact size of the territory of this unique natural structures it is not. By conservative estimates, the area of ??the coral barrier reaches three hundred and fifty thousand square miles, nearly equal in Germany. Among the islands of the Great Barrier Reef coral distinguish, almost no rising above the sea surface, and so-called high, composed of ancient rocks and wooded. Around them is usually formed its own coral necklace. But all of them, along with reefs and shoals, form a single hill, by the length equal to the distance from Murmansk to Odessa and receding in some places three hundred feet in depth. And the creators of this, without exaggeration, a gigantic structure - the tiny organisms, the coral polyps. They, and their relatives - sponges and sea anemones belong to the class of coelenterates. But, unlike their cousins ??soft, coral polyps secrete their body in a hard calcareous shell. Millions of these shells fused to form a coral reef. So the Great Barrier Reef - the most ambitious building in the world, built by living organisms. And it can not compete no Great Wall or a tunnel under the English Channel.

Investigation of this gigantic barrier off the coast of Australia, marked the beginning of the great explorer James Cook. His sailing ship "Endeavour" was the first ship passed through the narrow strait between the Great Barrier reef and the shore of the mainland. Walk more than a thousand miles without maps for most complex fairway shoaly and underwater rocks, it was certainly a miracle seamanship. But even the famous Cook had experienced the perfidy of the local waters. His "Endeavour" ran all the same on a coral reef, damaging housing, and only by throwing overboard all the guns and part of the cargo, the British captain was to withdraw from the cliff and reach the shore. Over the past since more than two centuries of Australian coral reefs in the barrier damaged or gone to the bottom hundreds of ships. Even in the XX century have occurred here maritime disaster. And the place names in this part of the Coral Sea speaks for itself: cape Trouble, The painful bay, island of Hope ... Not for nothing that the water in the Great Barrier Reef as a magnet attracts numerous shipwrecks treasure hunters.

The first coral reefs at the site of a giant coral barrier arose millions of years ago. But the main part of it is under the age of about five hundred thousand years. During this time, the coral polyps were able to erect buildings average height of one hundred twenty meters. Construction of the reef is still going on, although it is not easy to notice. After growing "houses" of polyps is very slow. To branch coral rose by only five centimeters, you need a whole year.

The width of the reef ranges from three hundred meters to the north up to five kilometers in the south, and from the coast of the mainland it at a distance of thirty kilometers (the Cape York Peninsula) to two hundred fifty (at the Tropic of Capricorn).

Describing the stunning beauty and diversity of life underwater kingdom of the Great Barrier Reef, people do not skimp on the lush adjectives and comparison: "World Blue Dreams," "The greatest architectural structure of nature on the planet," "A delightful undersea forest," " , The Eighth Wonder of the World, "" breathtaking underwater scenery, "" The rich marine ecosystem of the world ».

Indeed, the number of inhabitants and their strikingly beautiful appearance Great Barrier Reef is unparalleled in the oceans. Alone corals there are about four hundred species. Some of them are like the human brain (they are called - "brain") and others - to the strange lace mushrooms, branches, or curtains, and others - on the antlers. They come in hard and soft, white and colored, and got into their fabulous underwater world, you begin to think that he found himself in some strange fantasy garden of unearthly colors: blue, blue, green, yellow, orange, pink, red and even black .

But corals are only one tenth of the population of the underwater barrier. Besides them, live on the reef for more than four thousand species of molluscs, from snails to giant bivalve tridakn meter, as well as sponges, sea anemones, crabs, crabs, sea stars, sea urchins and many algae.

But the main decoration of the Great Barrier Reef waters - of course, fish. By exotic coloring and numerous types and forms to the realm of coral fishes is unmatched by any flowering mountain meadow, nor the world of fabulous films of Disney. Only a fraction of that you can see the colors of saltwater aquariums to zoos. Because the number of fish species in coral forests bizarre planet reaches a few thousand! And the Great Barrier Reef - is no exception. Fifteen hundred representatives of ichthyofauna graze in his underwater thickets, washed by the warm waters of the Coral Sea. The names of many of them speak for themselves: the fish, butterfly, wrasse, clown fish, Skalozub, parrot fish, sea dog, hedgehog, fish, cardinal and even ... fish-fly. And besides them are found here groupers and moray eels, stingrays and sharks, groupers and sea pike, and many other representatives of the fish kingdom.

On the islands south of the Great Barrier Reef at night, large sea turtles swim to put in pits dug on the beach their eggs. Then they poured masonry sand, tamped and swim back to sea. Appeared on the offspring have their own dig their way to the surface and get to the native marine element in wet sand coral beach. This is where the turtles that have not yet even shell is hardened, and a growing danger. Thousands of sea birds living on islands, just waiting for this moment. Dive down, they grab the turtle babies one by one, and only a few manage to get to the saving of water.

On the islands of the Great Barrier Reef home to as much as two hundred and forty species of birds. It's shearwaters, carriages, frigates, boobies, terns, fulmars, belobryuhie eagles and many others. But the mammals in the waters around the reef, a little bit. Mostly it's whales and dolphins. And besides them graze in thickets of seaweed between the islands and the dugong, a close relative of the sea cow.

Beautiful underwater forests and meadows, sparkling with rainbow colors, seem at first glance invulnerable. Still - because they rock, but that may threaten the stone? But it turns out, the coral reefs as vulnerable as any other child of nature. And the recent disaster, which occurred with the Australian reef, once again reminded about it.

In the 1960-1970-ies the existence of the reef was in jeopardy due to a sharp increase in the number of sea stars. The danger came from one of these species of echinoderms, wearing a beautiful name "crown of thorns." Huge, reaching half a meter in diameter, with numerous starfish tentacles was terrible enemy of coral polyps. Sticking to their buildings, "a crown of thorns" produces holes in the coral "cottages" digestive juice and digests the polyps, leaving a dead zone. During the year a star can destroy life on six square meters of reef. The proliferation of these previously quite rare hungry polyps appeared to be related to the disappearance in many areas of the Great Barrier Reef of their natural enemies - predatory snails, newts. Because of the large beautiful shells souvenir hunters collected tons of newts for sale to tourists. As a result, freed from the natural constraint of their size, sea stars began to proliferate, and entire sections of coral barrier turned into a lifeless desert sea. Now hunting for snails, newts, is prohibited, with the "Crown of Thorns" are fighting divers, armed with poison needles, and little by little, the natural balance of the reef recovers. But in many areas destroyed by the Great Barrier Reef life back only twenty years or thirty.

Warm waters, deserted beaches, an abundance of secluded islands, and the ability to spend long hours in the exceptional scenic beauty of the underwater kingdom attracted to this wonderful corner of the Earth hundreds of thousands of tourists. Some of them are limited to guided tours on ships and boats in order to devote the rest of familiarity with the equally unique wildlife Australian coast. But more motivated lovers of marine life inhabit the islands in two to three weeks, tirelessly watching and filming a video camera coral worlds. While Australians are organized and marine reserve under strict protection are only a few particularly vulnerable areas of the Great Barrier Reef.

And reviews of travel, a lot of postranstvovavshih around the world and to dive with scuba diving off the coast of the Maldives and the Seychelles, Hawaii and the Galapagos archipelago, to see the coral thickets and the Red Sea, Caribbean, French Polynesia and Palau Islands, the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef has no equal the scale and diversity. No wonder in remote Australia are flying and floating across half the world by thousands of tourists to enjoy with nothing comparable to the charm of blue lagoons and the straits, which are concealed innumerable living treasures of the Great Barrier Reef.