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A Day On Australia's Great Barrier Reef (II).

By Douglas Sassman.


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I wasn’t aware of the threat of cyclones that rage down out of the tropical north with regularity in the summer. I didn’t know the beaches were closed in Northern Queensland, also in summer, as the box jellyfish moves in close to shore to feed. In all of nature, there is nothing more deadly than the box jellyfish.

I’ll take a dozen agitated asps in my sleeping bag over a lone box jellyfish. No more then 20cm in height and shaped like a small box with long thin tentacles, an encounter with a box jellyfish is – quite simply – death, in two to three minutes more or less. I didn’t know this, I didn’t know any of this, I only knew what was on my three-leaf brochure.

A tropical disturbance well offshore has stirred up the wind and seas, but that doesn’t stop half the state of Iowa and us from boarding the boat to the Great Barrier Reef. “It’s not too bad,” I say with confidence, I leaf through my brochure with sunbathing smiling people for reassurance. “Besides if it was really bad, they wouldn’t take us out.”

My wife manages a feeble nod.

The boat sets out, it’s rough, but nothing that would ruffle the scruff of an old sea dog, however some of the less seaworthy folk are already looking pale. The to-and-fro motion rocks my daughter to sleep on my chest.

My wife has momentary feelings of nausea, but retains her composure. After about an hour out, a loud speaker above us crackles to life, “If you would like to see a short feature presentation of ‘The Living Reef,’ please proceed to the upper deck.




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