Raising awareness for the Great Southern Reef

Dear readers, allow me to digress briefly from sailing and talk about another ocean passion of mine, scuba diving.

I learned to dive in the cold, clear waters of Monterey Bay, California back in the late 80’s. It is there that I fell in love with temperate marine ecosystems and the beauty of the giant kelp forests. Had I learned in warmer waters, I might never have donned a 7mm-thick wetsuit. Many divers never experience the wonders of temperate waters, shunning them for the tropical coral reefs that attract so much attention. Yet temperate waters hold a great diversity of marine life and few more so than the waters of southern Australia, or the Great Southern Reef (GSR).

Unlike tropical reefs in which species are distributed globally, 90% of species found in the GSR are endemic to southern Australia, and what marvelous creatures they are; from the colony-forming bryozoans that rival corals in their fantastic shapes and colors, to those masters of camouflage, the stunning seadragons. These are not cosmopolitan species that might just as easily pop up on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) as a reef in Belize, The Maldives, or The Philippines. These are marine species that are native to Australia and geographical isolation has confined them to our waters. They are as much a part of Australia’s wonderful natural heritage as its unique terrestrial wildlife.

Located on the Fleurieu Peninsula, about 100 km south of Adelaide, the old Rapid Bay jetty is one of Australia’s most popular shore dives. This dive site is a photographer's dream, teeming with life and color. The old jetty pylons are beautifully overgrown and home to an abundance of colorful invertebrates including sponges, ascidians, soft corals, sea stars, and nudibranchs. Fish life is also plentiful, particularly at the jetty intersection or what divers call the ‘T’, where large schools of old wives, blue gropers, cowfish, and southern blue devils reside. It is also home to a resident population of exquisite ornately camouflaged leafy sea dragons (top photo).

To raise awareness of the GSR, AusOcean has developed South Australia’s first live streaming underwater camera to broadcast the magnificent marine life beneath Rapid Bay directly to your screens.

You can view the live stream here.

A younger me, during a 1990 diving trip to Catalina Island, California.