Saturday, June 11, 2011
On June 11, 1770, the HM Bark Endeavor, captained by British explorer James Cook, unexpectedly “discovers” Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Cook and his crew of 94 men, set sail on May 27, 1768 on a mission officially to observe the movement of Venus. Cook’s unofficial assignment is to search for a major continent believed to be between Tahiti and New Zealand and claim it for England. He doesn’t find the fabled “southern continent,” but when his ship “struck and stuck fast” on the eve of June 11, he had hits upon one of the wonder’s of the world. It takes nearly two months to repair the Endeavor adding time to the journey that finally returns to England after three years at sea, about year longer than planned. This was to be Cook’s first of three major voyages.
Last month, a project to freeze coral sperm and embryonic cells Great Barrier Reef, was announced by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and its partners. In theory, researchers will be able to thaw the genetic material even up to 1,000 years from now to help future restoration efforts. The Great Barrier Reef stretches 1,800 miles along the Queensland coast and is the world’s largest structure made of living organisms. Coral reefs worldwide are under siege from a variety of pollutants including industrial waste, sewage, chemicals, oil spills, fertilizers, and runoff, as addition to facing threats from climate change and harmful fishing practices.