Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Oil Tanker's Coral Shredded Hull Scars The Barrier Reef

Australia is most identified by the massive coral reef that encompases much of the Continent's coast- the Great Barrier Reef. The Barrier reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world for its immesne size and the vital role it plays on the natural world. The only living thing on Earth that is visible from space, the Barrier reef is larger than the Great Wall of China ( But as massive as the Barrier Reef is, its not impervious to humans. As mankind's presence continues to exented into the inner workings of the natural world, we are seeing the Great Barrier Reef stripped- reef after reef- into a lifeless abyss. On April 3rd, the Barrier Reef was dealt another blow. It happened when the Chinese-registered coal carrier- Shen Neng 1- veered 17 miles off-course into protected waters, where it grounded and gouged a 2 mile long scare into the Douglas Shoal.

According to an article issued on April 14th by Discovery, the 750-ft Chinese vessel was carrying a payload of 68,000 tons of coal and leaked roughly 2 tons of oil into the water in its wake. Oil spills can have devastating effects on marine biology, and the location of this spill couldn't be worse. Globules of oil have washed ashore on beachs on North West island, which conservationists describe as a "globally important nesting site for seabirds and green and loggerhead turtles, which are currently hatching and travelling down to the beach" ( The oil spills appear to be isolated to a small area, but unfortunately oil may not be the most destructive apsect of this incident.

Experts cited in the discovery article believe that the worst part of the ordeal is the toxic paint that was scratched off the ships hull and smeared the coral beds lying in the vessels path. The Chinese vessel, like many ships, was covered in a paint prevents the growth of plants on the hull that create drag. Scientists state that the destruction of the corals and the spread of this paint will make recovery a tedious process: innitial assesments indicate it may take 20 years for the reef to recover ( Certain types of these "anti-fouling" paints simply act as a barrier, while other prevent any growth from forming. If the paint used on the Shen Neng's hull was the latter of the two, its possible that the paint would not simply kill the marine life, but would inhibit any new growth from occuring there. Tests are being run on the paint left on the reef to determine which type of paint was used.

The natural world contains some of the most striking elexamples of elaborate systems working in harmony to achieve a balance- an level of order amongst the choas. No such system coincides more intricately and effectively as coral reef environments. The Great Barrier Reef reflects synergy in its purist form, and humans are the wrecking ball. Affecting one organism in a reef can produce a cascade of affects that ripple accross many species. Unless we can find a way to exist in harmony with nature- like the synergetic relationships shown throughout The Barrier Reef- we will destroy one of the most vital ecosystems on the planet. The captains of the Shen Neng are being put on trial for their destruction to the reef, where they will surely face the maximum penalty if found guilty for their accused crimes.

Posted by Alexander Norregaard (2)


  1. I remembered reading about the seven wonders of the world and the Great Barrier Reef came up. What interested me the most was that it is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms. Just thinking that one of the seven wonders of the world had been tainted is quite a sad story. With the oil spills and the damage of the reef, the wide diversity of life inhabiting the area may be be decreasing causing imbalance in the relationships of ecosystem like you've mentioned above. Eventually humans will be affected. What a shame.

    Posted by Vinh Tran

  2. I agree with Vinh, it is sad to see one of nature's masterpieces get tarnished with mankind's follies. Unfortunate for us, nature can't repair itself at break neck speed like humans can repair buildings. Trees, and the reef, take decades if not centuries to grow to their potential. People need to realize that it only takes minutes to destroy something that's taken a lifetime to grow. Is there anyway of rapidly cleaning up the oil or creating a sunken reef at the damage spot to increase the repair process?

    Posted by Charly Almonte

  3. I wonder if we will evolve to something after many years from all these damages we create daily to polute our environment. If it is not toxic gasses it is either craxy oil or something else. Our ecosystem is highly being abused. We live in atmosphere with full of polutants we create and we wonder why cancer rate is increasing rapidly compare to previous centuries when we didnt know too much.

    Posted by Anna Moreno

  4. What a waste, all that reef destroyed for a shorter route. With everything else going on in the environment like rising sea temperatures that “bleach” the coral this is the last thing the reef needs. The response time was impressive though. Containing the spill and using a chemical dispersant sprayed by aircraft showed that they were prepared for handling the situation.

    Posted by Daniel Solomon

  5. Its horrible to know that something like this happened, not just from one cause but two and both being caused from the same people. I would like to know how the people who caused the damage feel about the situation. It is a good thing that there are organizations and laws that punish those who destroy nature's plants and animals because more situations like this could happen.

    Posted by Kayla Perry

  6. First of all, this is a well-reported story. I believe you did well completely grasping the importance of the headline.

    Secondly, I think it is important that people around the world not only value nature for its beauty, but also its economical value. Destroying such a complex ecosystem will not only have a negative impact on the resident wildlife, but also humanity. Many cures to diseases are found and isolated from small unique organisms. By reducing the number of species on the planet, we are limiting our reserve of resources which could be imperative to our survival. If more people understand how much we rely on other species, maybe people will be less indifferent about their importance.

    Posted by Matt Grazewski

  7. This is horrible! Marine biology and conservation is a new area of interest to many and is just now being considered important. Coral reefs are amazing as you say they are and are an excellent example of nature's beauty. I cannot believe that a ship had a captain that managed to travel so far off course...and I cannot believe that there is not any indication that the waters wewre protected. I hope they get fined up the whazoo! Hopefully the researchers find ways to return this habitat back to normal as soon as possible. Humans are horrid on nature!

    Posted by Amanda Hostetter