Vulnerable Reef

For the past three weeks we have been sharing with you the jaw-dropping beauty of a healthy reef. But in this post we want to show you what a damaged, vulnerable reef looks like. 

Most of you will have heard about the terrible damage the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs in the world are suffering as a result of global warming. When you see our posts, some of you may be wondering and be lulled into a sense of “it’s not so bad after all”. Well unfortunately a significant portion of the Great Barrier Reef is damaged, some possibly beyond recovery and as we travel north, more and more evidence of the damage will be obvious.

Here is a map of the Reef we included in a previous post.


Back to back coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017 hit two thirds of the Great Barrier Reef. 67% of the corals died in a 700 km northern section of the Reef. This was due to a combination of high temperature literally cooking the coral, tropical cyclones smashing corals and exacerbating coastal run off, but all related to global warming.


Bleached Coral

81% of reefs were bleached in the northern sector, 33% in the central section and 1% in the southern sector where we are currently. This is why we have enjoyed vibrant corals and rich fish life in the main. But yet even in these parts there is damage and the fringing reef is vulnerable. A damaged reef not only loses its vibrant coral, it also loses the fish population so crucial to its recovery. We have seen damage in some parts of the Keppels: some totally white, bleached coral and some that was bleached in earlier years and is now covered with algae. It looks lifeless, brown, choked to death, unable to sustain significant fishlife. These images were taken at Humpy and Miall Islands.


Algae covered rubble


Bleached Coral


Smashed coral covered with algae


Algae choking smashed staghorn coral


Bleached Coral

We will get a better idea of the state of the Reef as we progress northward. But for this year, we are unlikely to go much beyond the Whitsundays, at the southern end of the central section of the Reef.

This is a more somber post than usual, but one we felt compelled to publish.

22 thoughts on “Vulnerable Reef

  1. I’m sorry that the coral reef have been damaged, I hope that it will recover in the future, no matter how long it takes. Nature works in estrange ways but manages to survive always… Take care Chris. 🙂

  2. What a world disgrace and still the pollies are reluctant to take significant action on climate change. Aust is also suffering a 7 year drought andd we head for summer. Let’s hope the nthn temperatures do not happen here again. More coral will die and the drought will get even worse. 😭

  3. Heartbreaking to see the damage but the more people who get to see what is happening can only help the understanding of the impact we have on our wonderful world.

  4. So very very sad, & thank you Chris for showing these more somber photos as well as your absolutely beautiful ones. I can’t believe some can’t accept that the Barrier Reef needs to be protected.

  5. Thanks for the sad picture show, guys. Like you say, it’s not all bright and happy on the reef. Global warming is a global curse we’ve brought – and are bringing – on ourselves.

    It’s expected to be a relatively benign cyclone season this summer, but nevertheless it’s good to know you’re heading back south soon.


    • Nice to hear from you, Terry! Thought we needed to show a balanced view of the state of the reef.

      We won’t be coming down for a few months and only to go to Lord Howe! Staying where it is warm!

  6. Your article is an excellent summary about how global warming damages coral lives. Coral bleaching is horrible and it getting worse and worse every moment. Fortunately there are still some ways to prevent this from happening, why not we just take actions today and stop this before it is too late. I’m currently running a campaign called ‘ocean of difference’ which encouraging people protecting the ocean environment by simply choosing the reef-safe sunscreen. I’d love if you could check it out and share some advises.
    Love your article and thank so for letting more people to know more about this serious issue!

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