You often hear of coral reefs described as being fragile, but we discovered the tough side of coral when we visited Heron Island with cameraman Mark MacEwan. The Island is a small sand bay sitting on top of a huge reef, from above; it looks like the yolk of a fried egg.
We timed our arrival with the lowest tides to film the rare moment when whole areas of the reef are exposed. At certain times of the day the water sweeps off the reef in waterfalls revealing great chunks of coral to the air.
Coral polyps, more used to cooling seawater, find themselves not only exposed to air but also to the searing Queensland sun. They survive by retreating inside their limestone skeletons and secreting bucket loads of slime, which acts as sunscreen.
The whole effect is as surreal as it is stunning, a reef that we’d been snorkelling over only a few hours before, was suddenly before us, as if lifted out of the water by some supernatural force. The coral heads, now in full sunlight showed their true colours: fluorescent greens, bright purples and every colour of the rainbow all shining in the water as if freshly varnished. This was one of the great spectacles of the reef and one that reinforced its ever-changing nature.
Blacktip reef shark
A Blacktip reef shark taken by series producer James Brickell at Heron Island. Copyright James Brickell
- Series Producer
- James Brickell
- Monty Halls
- Executive Producer
- Neil Nightingale
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