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The blaring foghorn erupted behind me as the ship started to inch out of the dock. The morning light shimmered on the tropical waters, like stars shining in the night sky. We left the port of Cairns, Australia at midmorning when it was bustling with traffic, bound on course to the Great Barrier Reef. Boats of different sizes and shapes were docked in the harbor. Seaplanes were taking off and landing. As the catamaran floated slowly out of the dock, it increased in speed. In a short time, we were in the waters of the Coral Sea heading toward the Great Barrier Reef .Before traveling to the reef, I read books about it and saw amazing pictures highlighting the biodiversity of the area. As my family and I boarded the ship bound to the marine reserve, I wondered whether my image of the reef was accurate. The ship came to a halt and docked onto a platform in the middle of the ocean.
I had never snorkeled in an ocean in my life. Tourists around me slowly floated away from the platform and started snorkeling. The lukewarm tropical waters of the reef were welcoming, so I dived into the waters to discover whether my impression of the reef was accurate. Layers of thick yellow corals were stacked up deep underneath me, like cargo ready for shipment. The green waters made the ocean’s depth seem comparable to a bottomless pit.
As I dived into the reef, I observed the different sizes of the corals below my knees. There were small corals about the size of a thumb, juxtaposed to the giant corals easily the size of a boulder. A Great Barrier Clownfish snuggled with a sea anemone and the corals created a flamboyant display underneath my feet. The variety of colors was as dazzling as a rainbow’s family reunion.
In the distance, I saw cement-colored fields dotting the seafloor. I suddenly realized that the patches were bleached coral. The dead coral was very drab, and it was disturbing to see a lifeless area in the middle of a thriving ecosystem. It was the color of white chalk and there was an absence of living organisms in the patches. The sun’s warm glow that typically shimmered in the water was dissolved in the dead climate. Global warming and other man-made causes had started to destroy the Great Barrier Reef and threaten its existence. I swam back toward the living reef to enjoy its exciting climate.
My brother and I snorkeled peacefully until the time came to board the ship once again. The return ride was mainly placid and uneventful. We slowly watched the scenery change as we returned to the port . And, with the evening glow reflecting over the water’s boundless surface, I stepped onto actual land.
My view of the Great Barrier Reef has changed from my previous knowledge of this marine reserve. In science class, I had marveled at the pictures of the ecosystem. After this experience, my view of the reef is different and I now understand the impact of pollution and global warming on the coral reef and other natural ecosystems. In retrospect, my trip to the Great Barrier Reef was breathtaking, but I always wonder
-will I ever see the same coral reef again?
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