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Attenborough returns to the Reef

IN 1957, Sir David Attenborough first visited and scuba dived one of the great wonders right on our doorstep: the Great Barrier Reef.

Sixty years later, the world famous broadcaster and naturalist has returned to film a new series on ABC – and although he didn’t make a stop in our region, there’s no doubt the tourism industry will benefit from the publicity.

Newly elected Tourism Whitsundays chairman Al Grundy was in London over Christmas when the documentary first aired.

“There was quite a buzz around it even over there, with people talking about it,” he said.

“So what I think it really does is firmly places the Great Barrier Reef as possibly the world’s number 1 natural attraction and natural asset.

“And with having someone like David Attenborough showcase it, it just puts us in an amazing position moving forward, because that program is being seen globally.”

Cherry Muddle, the Whitsunday-based reef campaigner from the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said she thought the documentary highlighted the reef’s splendour and beauty, “and that’s so important for inspiring millions of people to visit the reef and protect it”.

Sir David Attenborough in his Great Barrier Reef series on ABC.contributed

“It does touch on coral bleaching, however it was filmed before the bleaching this summer actually started,” she said.

“But right now the reef is experiencing the worst coral bleaching event, with more than 500 reefs severely bleached white.”

“I think public awareness is absolutely critical because we want people to come see the reef, experience it, to know why it’s so important to protect.

“It’s important for people to make that link between the burning and mining of coal, which is driving global warming, heating the oceans and bleaching the reef.

“It’s really important for people to join the dots and understand why the reef is bleaching.”

Attenborough said the Reef is “just a wonder of the natural world”.

“I was fantastically privileged being in the ship (Alucia) which would take me up in the skies and down to the bottom of the seas… just a dream come true really,” he said.

“The first time that you see a coral reef community is one of the amazing experiences of the richness and variety of the natural world.”

Reflecting on his unique experiences, he explains how the Reef has lost almost half its coral since his first visit, and will look at what the future holds for it.

“Wherever there are human beings and wherever there is industry, there are consequences. And the consequences on the coast are likely to be not too good for the Reef,” Attenborough said.

“The real problem on the Reef is the global one – which is what is happening with the increase in acidification and the rise in the ocean temperature.

“Scientists have done research on coral and they now know for sure that if (the ocean temperature) goes up beyond a degree, or a degree-and-a-half, it will kill coral.

“The resilience of the natural world gives you great hope really. Give nature half a chance and it really takes it and works with it. But we are throwing huge problems at it.”

Sir David Attenborough in his Great Barrier Reef series on ABC.contributed

Attenborough on the Reef

“The Great Barrier Reef is just a wonder of the natural world…a lovely place. I was fantastically privileged being in the ship (Alucia) which would take me up in the skies and down to the bottom of the seas… just a dream come true really.

“The first time that you see a coral reef community is one of the amazing experiences of the richness and variety of the natural world.

“Here (on the Reef) there are hundreds, literally hundreds of wonderful, beautiful colours – astonishing.

“The Reef is a whole community of creatures, not only below water but above water.

“The Reef eco system is one of the most complex, and varied, and crowded ecosystems on the planet.

“The Reef is splendid, beautiful, remarkable, and wonderful It touches the human imagination and the human spirit and it’s very precious.”

Sir David Attenborough in his Great Barrier Reef series on ABC.contributed

Attenborough on the submersible

“I’ve travelled in a submersible that’s one of a kind. There’s no other one like it, and it has taken me down to a part of the Barrier Reef that no human being has ever looked at before.

“Sitting there (in the Triton submersible) as if it were an armchair and looking at one of the most extraordinary places on earth… a privilege given to very few.

“This is a lovely experience and you feel as though you’re just floating through this world.

“When you can do it (diving weightlessly) on a reef with this multitude of multi-coloured organisms, the like of which you’ve never seen before, and you can just, with a flick of your fin, move around and you can see these great sharks and things coming in from the ocean, that surely has to be one of the greatest sensations. It’s just a new world.

“The Triton took us down at night and it was very dramatic; sharks coming at you and turtles coming at you and so on…swimming into the beams and then swimming away into the unknown; very romantic and very exciting.”

Attenborough on the Future of the Reef

“Wherever there are human beings and wherever there is industry, there are consequences. And the consequences on the coast are likely to be not too good for the Reef.

“The real problem on the Reef is the global one – which is what is happening with the increase in acidification and the rise in the ocean temperature. Scientists have done research on coral and they now know for sure that if (the ocean temperature) goes up beyond a degree, or a degree-and-a-half, it will kill coral.

“The resilience of the natural world gives you great hope really. Give nature half a chance and it really takes it and works with it. But we are throwing huge problems at it.”

Attenboroughon the 3D technology

“I think that it was some sensational material, particularly in 3D.

“You want to take the new advances and new film-making technologies, and the new television advances into the new places where you can go… where you couldn’t go before.”

Part two of David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef will air this Sunday on ABC at 7.40pm.

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