The Great Barrier Reef never ceases to amaze as even more of its splendor went on display just recently. Earlier this week, Johnny Gaskell, a marine biologist, recently discovered a blue hole in the reef. The waterhole was noted to contain colonies of unique corals, which he photographed and shared with the world.
Basically, a blue hole can be most easily explained as being an underwater sinkhole. It’s dark blue because the Sun has difficulty illuminating its depths. From the surface, you can see it only when you’re on top of it. But when viewed from higher altitudes, the lighter blue of the shallows around the hole form a natural outline around the deep blue of the hole.
Gaskell discovered the sinkhole while searching on Google Maps and then set out to find it in person, which he did earlier this week.
“For many people, it’s a deep lagoon with pretty corals and fish. For me, it’s a haven for huge, unique, and delicate coral colonies,” he said.
Yesterday in the Great Barrier Reef!!! After spotting this deep blue hole on google maps we decided to head far offshore, out further than our normal Reef trips to see what dwelled within. What we found inside was hard to believe considering 5 months ago a Cat 4 cyclone went straight over the top of it. At around 15m – 20m deep there was huge Birdsnest Corals (Seriatopora) and super elongated Staghorn Corals (Acropora) both of which were among the biggest and most delicate colonies I've ever seen. Totally unaffected by the cyclone. The position of this deep hole within the lagoon walls has obviously protected these corals for decades. We may very well be the first to ever dive Gaskell's Blue Hole as it was so far offshore and hidden deep within one of the Great Barrier Reef's biggest lagoons…
The Blue Hole, Warm Water, or Until it Goes Deeper
Climate change is believed to be one of the biggest threats to coral reefs around the world. Such reefs are colonies of individual animals called Coral “polyps” that attach themselves to rocks. When coral polyps get too warm, they react to this stress by releasing the algae that live inside their tissues.
When corals release their algae into the ocean, they are unable to reproduce on the rocks, and the reefs lose their magnificent colors – a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. This is a sign that the reef is dying.
The protected corals living in the blue hole were noted to be thriving, an indication that they are apparently immune to coral bleaching. It’s conceivable they could help other parts of the reef regenerate. That is if the other parts of the reef don’t continue to overheat. Efforts to preserve the Great Barrier Reef will likely succeed through a combination of mitigating human-made threats and making the reef itself more resilient.
At least for now, Gaskell is keeping the exact location of the hole secret so that it may continue to flourish.
Image Source: Wikimedia