“The ship struck, and remained immovable, except by the heaving of the surge that beat her against the crags of the rock upon which she lay. … we had too much reason to conclude that we were upon rock of coral, which is more fatal than any other, because the points of it are sharp, and every part of the surface so rough, as to grind away whatever is rubbed against it, even with the gentlest motion.” And with that diary entry, Captain James Cook explains how he haphazardly discovered one of the seven wonders of the natural world. Rock of coral indeed; He had, in reality, dry docked ‘The Endeavour’ and crew upon the largest structure on earth made from living organism. Despite his long list of accolades, many would argue that this was his greatest find. With no idea just how immense the stretch of barrier reef ran, Cook and his crew attempted to sail away from land and around it on June 11, 1770. Hours later, a sudden and unforseen impact left them stranded on an exposed bombora for an entire day. It was a perilous situation, but one they eventually sailed away from, and with a fine discovery to log. James Cook was born on 27 October 1728 in Yorkshire, England. He was raised on a farm at Great Ayton, and at 17 was apprenticed to a shopkeeper at Staithes. During his time with the British navy he assumed the roles of Navigator, Cartographer and Captain. His achievements include circumnavigation of the globe, aiding the discovery of countless plant and animal varieties, first European contact with Australia and much of the Pacific island region. These conquests, however, also saw his demise. When relations with the native inhabitants of Hawaii ran sour, he was captured and murdered by the tribal warriors while trying to retreat from a hostile situation. While Cook’s indomitable thirst for discovery is honoured in his memory, the Great Barrier Reef continues to flourish. After 500,000 years it remains one of the great ecosystems of our planet. Although, flourish may be an overstatement… With over 2 million tourists visiting each year, and global temperatures rising, there are negative human impacts that we should be weary of. Ocean day is fast approaching, and protecting Mr Cook’s wondrous wilderness should be high on our list of priorities while we celebrate this natural wonder.
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