Sunday, March 26, 2006


Cyclone Larry Benefits Barrier Reef Corals

Cyclone Larry, which has hit Queensland, has done little physical damage to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and may even do it some good. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the University of Queensland says the cyclone has cooled the waters and may prevent coral bleaching this year.

Coral bleaching is when corals lose their colour, due to the loss of their symbiotic algae. These algae provide the coral with nutrients and many corals die after a bleaching event. (Some manage to attract new algae and recover.)

A major factor in coral bleaching is high water temperature.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Top 100 Dives of the World

The list of the world's top 100 dive sites, as voted for by SCUBA Travel readers, is now updated. The Yongala (a wreck in Queensland, Australia) keeps its top spot but there are new entries for Dominica, Polynesia, Nassau, Roatan, New South Wales and elsewhere.

Disagree with this list? Cast your vote at
  1. Yongala, AustraliaThe Thistlegorm
  2. Thistlegorm, Egyptian Red Sea
  3. Blue Corner Wall, Palau, Micronesia
  4. Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island
  5. Shark and Yolanda Reef, Egyptian Red Sea
  6. Navy Pier, Australia
  7. Manta Ray Night Dive, Kailua Kona, Hawaii
  8. Big Brother, Egyptian Red Sea
  9. Liberty, Bali, Indonesia
  10. Elphinstone Reef, Egyptian Red Sea

  11. Great Blue Hole, Belize
  12. Sodwana bay, South Africa
  13. Sha'ab Rumi South, Sudan
  14. President Coolidge, Vanuatu
  15. Ras Mohammed, Egyptian Red Sea
  16. Grand Central Station, Gizo, Solomon Islands
  17. Darwin Island, Galapagos
  18. Similans, Thailand
  19. Osprey Reef, Coral Sea, Australia
  20. Straits of Tiran, Egyptian Red Sea
  21. Richelieu Rock, Thailand
  22. Bloody bay wall, Little cayman
  23. Great white wall, Tavieuni Fiji
  24. Stingray City, Grand Cayman
  25. The Zenobia, Cyprus
  26. Darwin Arch, Galapagos
  27. Jackson Reef, Egypt
  28. Pedras Secas, Noronha, Brazil
  29. Holmes Reef, Coral Sea, Australia
  30. Puerto Galera, Philippines
  31. Poor Knights, New Zealand
  32. Shark Alley, Grand Cayman
  33. Half Moon Wall, Belize
  34. Protea Banks, South Africa
  35. Wolf Island, Galapogos
  36. Peleliu Express, Palau
  37. Dos Ojos (Los Cenotes), Playa del Carmen, Mexico
  38. The Canyons, Utila, Honduras
  39. Canibal Rock, Komodo, Indonesia
  40. Mnemba Island, Tanzania
  41. Cozumel, Mexico
  42. Blue Hole, Dahab, Egyptian Red Sea
  43. Gili air, Indonesia
  44. The Point, Layang - Layang
  45. Dirty rock, Cocos Island, Costa Rica
  46. Cod Hole, Northern Great Barrier Reef
  47. Rainbow Warrier, New Zealand
  48. The Express, Kuredu, Maldives
  49. Daedelus, Egyptian Red Sea
  50. Garuae Pass, Fakarava Island, French Polynesia
  51. Hilma Hooker, Bonaire
  52. Hanging Garden, Sipadan
  53. Booroo, Isle of Man
  54. Sound Drift, Isle of Man
  55. Chickens Rock, Isle of Man
  56. Toucari Caves, Dominica
  57. Barra Reef, Mozambique
  58. Wreck of the Bahama Mama, New Providence, Bahamas
  59. Blue Hole, Malta
  60. Joel's, PNG
  61. Tiputa Pass, Rangiroa, Polynesia
  62. Seal rocks, NSW, Australia
  63. Diamond Rocks, Kilkee, Ireland
  64. Fujikawa Maru, Truk Lagoon (Chuuk Lagoon)
  65. Sugar Wreck, Grand Bahama IslandThe Umbria
  66. Umbria, Sudan
  67. Fish Rock, Off South West Rocks in NSW, Australia
  68. Office, Mozambique
  69. South Point, Sipadan
  70. Chios island, Greece
  71. Pixie pinnacle and pixie wall, GBR, Australia
  72. Palancanar Bricks, Cozumel, Mexico
  73. Bay of Pigs, Cuba
  74. Tiputa pass, Rangiroa, New Zealand
  75. St Johns, Egypt
  76. Turtle tavern, Sipadan
  77. Hin Muang, Thailand
  78. Great Basses reef, Sri Lanka
  79. Port Royal, Roatan, Honduras
  80. Eye of the Needle, Saba
  81. Tubbataha, Palawan, Philippines
  82. Steel Forest, Nassau Bahamas
  83. alcyone, Cocos Island, Costa Rica
  84. Tormentous, Cozumel, Mexico
  85. Eel garden, Dahab, Egyptian Red Sea
  86. Boulari pass, New-Caledonia
  87. Am chesonet, St Lucia WI
  88. Aliwal Shoal, South Africa
  89. RMS Wreck of the Rhone, British Virgin Islands
  90. Santa Rosa Wall, Cozumel, Mexico
  91. New Dropoff, Palau
  92. Kunkungan, Lambeh Strait, N. Sulawesi, Indonesia
  93. Cenotes, Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
  94. Fernando de Noronha, Brasil
  95. Port Jackson, Sydney, Australia
  96. Punta Sur, Cozumel, Mexico
  97. Lake Malawi, East Africa
  98. Japanese Gardens, Koh Tao, Thailand
  99. James Barrie, Scapa Flow
  100. Los testigos islands, Venezuela

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Thursday, March 09, 2006


Creature of the Month: Moorish Idol, Zanclus cornutus

You see the Moorish Idol in ones, twos or large groups in
the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It's not found in the
Northern Red Sea though. They are very easy to recognise,
with their daytime black, white and yellow colours. They
also have a distinctive orange band over the long nose
which they poke into cracks and crevices on the reef to
feed on coralline algae and sponges.

Moorish Idols change to a darker colour at night, to
reduce their chances of being spotted by nocturnal
predators. The darker hues blend in with the gloom and
help to break up their outline.

The common name, Moorish Idol, is said to originate
from the Moors of Africa who purportedly believed the
fish to be a bringer of happiness. It is the only species
in the family Zanclidae.

Like the butterfly fish, Moorish Idols mate for life.
They live at depths of 3 to 180 m.

Further Reading:
Coral Reef Fishes, Indo-Pacific and Caribbean

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Win Coral Reef Architecture & Organisms Course

copyright Beautiful Oceans
Beautiful Oceans
Science Diver & Science Snorkeler Program

When asked to review an on-line marine science course I was sceptical. I thought it might just be an e-book with little original content. However, when I previewed the course I was very impressed.

The idea for on-line courses specifically designed for
divers comes from Stephan Becker and Ian Popple.
Becker has a Diploma in Environmental Studies and a
background in interactive education programs.
Popple has a MSc in marine biology and has written
extensively for many publications including National
Geographic and New Scientist. Together they want
to give divers the opportunity to learn about coral
reefs and directly benefit the ecosystem that
they explore.

Don't be put off by the term "course". You don't
have to attend any virtual lectures and one of the
main aims is to be fun. You are given access to
the web site where you can see marine videos and
read the course materials. You can work through
at your own pace, and if you need any help, or
want to talk to other students, you use their web
forum. Optionally, you can get the course book
as a pdf file or printed manual.

The manual is well-designed, clear to read with
a photograph or diagram on nearly every page.
Unlike other marine biology texts, it is
specifically aimed at divers but is not just an
identification guide. It instead helps you
understand the layout of a reef and why animals
and plants that live in each reef zone do so.
Organisms are not discussed in isolation but
relative to their environment and behaviour.
A full index would have been helpful though.

Throughout the course there are boxed "quick
quizzes" which reinforce the message given in
the previous pages. Other asides include
"Science Facts" and "Did you know?" which were
some of my favourite bits of information. For
example, "...The plural of fish is 'fishes'
when referring to a group that comprises more
than one species, but 'fish' when referring to
a group that comprises just one species."

The course doesn't try to give a comprehensive
account of a large number of animals. If this
is what you are looking for then you would be
better off buying an identification guide of
the marine life of your diving destination.
What it does do is concentrate on just a few
typical organisms of each coral reef zone:
shore, reef flats, drop-off, etc. It teaches
how to relate the animal's behaviour or
structure to the conditions in which it lives.

This new venture provides a good introduction
to coral reefs. However, it also gives much
information to interest experienced reef
watchers. I certainly learned things from it,
and I've been diving for over 20 years, have
a biology degree and regularly consult half
a library of sea-life and marine
biology books. It is also refreshing to
see a project with such a commitment to
preserving the marine environment that they
donate 10% of their profits to marine conservation.

For more information or to sign up for a
Beautiful Oceans course visit
(As we were impressed with the course we have
accepted Beautiful Oceans invitation to become an
affiliate, and so make a commission from each
sign-up via the above link.)

We are also pleased to offer you the chance to win free access to
the course. Just subscribe to our newsletter then e-mail us with "Beautiful Oceans" as the
subject line.

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