03/03/2009 - 03/05/2009
Leaving the dust of the Northern Territory behind us, we are on our way to the Great Barrier Reef that runs along the the northern and eastern coasts of Queensland. Here's a little background on Queensland.
Queensland is the country's second largest state behind Western Australian and its third most populous behind Victoria and New South Wales. It is located directly north of New South Wales and east of the Nothern Territory. Since Queensland is so large, it experiences a variety of climates, but most of the state experiences two weather seasons: a "winter" period of rather warm temperatures and minimal rainfall and a sultry summer period of hot, sticky temperatures and higher levels of rainfall. We were going into the tropical north of Queensland during the "Wet" (rainy season).
Queensland is known for its sunny beaches and for the largest structure in the world built by living organisms, the Great Barrier Reef. Due to the presence of the box jellyfish, the most venomous animal on the planet, I expect we will be leaving the beaches alone. During the summer months, the beaches are swarmed by these jellyfish whose sting can kill humans (and is immensely painful). Several deaths have even come from jellyfish so tiny that it could fit on top of your fingernail. The beaches we encountered in Queensland had giant signs at the entrances warning of these jellyfish, which are still deadly even dead.
Keeping away from the deadly jellyfish, we instead went into the open ocean filled with blue-ringed octopus and great white sharks (both human killers). The Great Barrier Reef stretches for over 1,600 miles and is still growing. A reef is any structure that rises from the ocean floor and approaches the surface. A coral reef is a reef that has been created by coral, a small marine organism. Coral secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton, constantly expanding on old layers to form larger structures. The Great Barrier Reef did not always exist. Coral can really only grow in shallow waters and at a specific temperature. The Reef has expanded because the ocean levels and the Australian landmass are constantly in motion. For the past 20,000 years the ocean levels have been rising as the last ice age recedes (allowing the coral to continue their growth upwards) and Australia is drifting north 7cm a year (allowing the coral to continue to grow southward). Given enough time, the reef could reach along the entire east coast of Australia.
You may be asking why we would travel to a land during its rainy season and where the beaches are patrolled by deadly jellyfish, but just wait until you see the pictures.