Snapshot: “A world like nowhere else on earth”

Like nowhere else on earth. As simple as that. The variety of jaw dropping and ecologically spectacular environments in Australia is fantastic. We have a natural heritage of extremely high quality and variety. Stands of mangroves, the cyclone protected nurseries for endless species of sea creature, stretch across the entire north facing coastline. The brilliant, ancient, rusted red cliffs of the west, the white of the Bight coast, the golden yellow of the Otway coast. Towering forests, not above but reaching from the depths – kelp gardens of our coolest temperate waters. From the tropics – the greatest of barrier reefs, the largest fringing (coast hugging) reef of Ningaloo. Gorgeous, azure waters all around the country stretch away into exploding swells sweeping in off the massive oceans. And of course, there’s the brilliant stretching beaches synonymous with Australian summers and staring out over our marine backyard.

Like nowhere else. And then, there’s still deeper reefs, the abyss, the submerged mountain ranges and volcanos, and more..

Blue Planet 2 is shaping conversations all around us – this piece is one of three, diving further into the scene of the Australian marine environment that we all love, yet one with much more for all of us to learn and appreciate.

1

Crisp waves powering off the Southern Ocean, Victoria

Out of my depth, at depth

Much like the iconic inhabitants of our much more familiar above sea level landscapes, the life underwater in southern Australia is just as strongly beautiful and unique. Here, knees on the sandy floor, you explored the graveyard of shells and discarded lives at arms reach – limpets, barnacle particles, bivalves, even fragments of sea star – all bleached white from an age of absorbing the sun in the shallower water, before finding their way to deeper depths. Nearby a soaked underwater escarpment composed of the sharp sedimentary rock identical to the Port Phillip Heads is swaying in synchronisation in the slack tide. Smaller creatures – a fascinating array of colours and shapes – sea stars, sponges and the like, grip hard and some permanently to the rock. You venture over to peer closer, still waiting for your instructor, like a child exploring while waiting for their parents to stop talking. There is enough going on just in front of you to last an entire dive of exploration – or more!

It’s a fascinating density of life, each square inch of rock home to sometimes multiple creatures and species. It’s so true that the closer you look, the richer your landscapes become, and you can begin to construct the scene before you not visually but mentally, on the basis of experience and strong understanding.

Become aquatinted with the community of the small and colourful, those usually ignored and clinging to the rocks.

There’s beauty in even the most simplest of things..

Read the full Out of my depth, at depth piece here.

6

Merri Marine Sanctuary, Warrnambool, Victoria

A Slice of Sanctuary

Imagine before you open your eyes – you’re not there of course, this is most likely (given the modern era) splashed across your computer screen in front of you, or re-imagined for your smart phone. Take a breath. Imagine somebody has blindfolded you, and helped you up to the height of Thunder Point, the highest place overlooking the park – you can’t see the sanctuary, but you’re beginning to feel the sanctuary instantly. Your remaining activated senses are awash with activity – the air you’re breathing now is no longer stagnant, the ever present south-westerly has laid waste to the mess of anthropogenic smells left by you and all those around you..

Now breathe again. It’s a rush of cool, tingling air and a dull burning sensation intrudes to the furthest reaches of your nose – nasal cavities burst to a state a refreshment synonymous with ocean side living. Keep breathing, and focus in on your ears..

Finally, before your thoughts wonder off around the coast to the east, imagine two silhouettes on the southerly horizon coming into focus. Two infamous islands – although from this angle they appear as one. They dominate the landscape, laying right in the middle of the sanctuary. Their stunning, layered xantho-rock reaches for one another. Romantics drifting further apart from each other slowly – ever so slowly – this disconnection is forever.

The islands and waters around them lay out-of-bounds for environmental reasons. It is dedicated so to protect a variety of species. Marine sanctuaries ensure marine life has a place to exist in natural abundance. What you see is completely what you get. There’s no extraction or alteration of the environment within the sanctuary, and we have a place we can visit and be reminded of what the world would be like elsewhere if we allowed the areas to just be themselves..

You can read the full A Slice of Sanctuary piece here

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Photo by Shannon Hurley, Moreton Bay Marine Park, Queensland

You have to catch Blue Planet 2 whilst it’s still on – the BBC have shaped a world class story thanks to the brilliant Sir David Atttenborough, and the footage from all corners of our fantastic globe, is truely spectacular.

Next piece, we’ll explore the impacts that our unique marine environment is facing, and follow up with piece three – focusing on the solutions, and how we can reverse the negative impacts humans are having on the marine world.

For the time being you can still view past episodes here.

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