Great Barrier Reef Fast Facts: World Firsts

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is the largest and longest coral reef in the world; the biggest single structure on the planet made by living organisms and the first coral reef eco system in the world to be awarded World Heritage status.

But here's some World Firsts you might not know about…

  • Sir David Attenborough first visited the Great Barrier Reef in 1957 and dived using Aqua-Lung equipment. On his return visit in 2015 - to film a three-part documentary on the reef - he dived using a Triton Submersible – its very first use on the Great Barrier Reef. This technology enabled Attenborough and his crew to go to depths of 300 metres – the deepest anyone has been on the Great Barrier Reef.

    Attenborough and his crew also used the latest CGI and 3D technology to document parts of the GBR marine environment never seen before and in such high resolution that it can be viewed on an IMAX screen.

  • The Four Seasons Great Barrier Reef Hotel was the world's first floating hotel. The hotel was built in Singapore and was then towed to its final destination – the John Brewer Reef off the coast of Townsville – in 1986. The hotel was relocated to Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam in 1989.

  • In June 2015, Google's popular Street View maps took a dive Down Under, with the launch of the world's first 3D mapping of the Great Barrier Reef. Australian researchers teamed up with Google to create the database, which allows people to virtually dive the reef.

  • In 2013 the Great Barrier Reef became a canvas for the world's first underwater art gallery when Reef Magic Cruises hosted an underwater art exhibition.

  • In 2013, Scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) were the first to discover the natural sun screening ability of coral on the Great Barrier Reef.

  • In 1983, The Quicksilver Group were the first to establish a permanently moored pontoon on the Great Barrier Reef.

  • In 1961, Green Island's famous Great Barrier Reef theatre became the world's first movie theatre to open on an island. The theatre featured the works of pioneering underwater photographers, Noel and Kitty Monkman. The theatre was operational until the early 1990s.

  • In 1954, the world's first underwater observatory opened on Green Island in Tropical North Queensland. Developers repurposed an old Navy dive chamber for the main chamber and the 22 portholes (with 2.7 cm thick glass) from a decommissioned WWII submarine. The entire structure was designed to withstand up to 96,000 lbs of pressure and was held in place by steel pins and sea anchors driven into the reef. If building it wasn't hard enough, the process of getting the structure to Green Island was - it took more than 18 hours (travelling at 1 knot), to tow the observatory the 27 km from Cairns.

  • In 1937, The Hayles Company (now Great Adventures) launched the world's first glass bottomed boat on Green Island. This simple small wooden dinghy - with glass floats overhanging the sides - was quite the novelty and was the very first time that visitors could view the reef without getting wet. By 1948, a modernised version was introduced with glass panels inserted into the floorboards.

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Author: Tourism and Events Queensland

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