The Crochet Coral Reef is a project created by Margaret Wertheim and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring, a Los-Angeles based non-profit that pioneers creative new methods for engaging the public about scientific and mathematical issues by putting people and communities at the core

14 Reasons to Love Your National Marine Sanctuaries

Anacapa Island is one of five islands protected by Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

They are full of mysteries.

Humans have only explored an estimated 5 percent of the world’s ocean. In fact, we know more about the surface of the moon than our own salty seas! So, while more than 150 historic aircrafts and ships have been reported lost within the waters of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, the remains of just 25 have been discovered. What else might be waiting in your national marine sanctuaries?

A humpback whale and calf swim in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #14682

They serve as home base to many of the ocean’s migrating animals.

Although many marine species migrate throughout the world’s ocean, there are unique spots these animals return to regularly each year. One of these is Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, which surrounds the main Hawaiian Islands. More than 10,000 humpback whales winter here, migrating as far as 3,000 miles to Hawai’i to mate, calve and raise their young.

Fish swim above a coral reef in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA

They contain spectacular underwater gardens.

In the 1800’s, fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico looked down at a vivid reef they thought looked like lush gardens of flowers. Today, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary takes its name from the brightly colored sponges, corals and other marine life that thrive on the salt domes found in the sanctuary. The electric colors of the chromis, creolefish and damselfish are the most common throughout these reefs. With as much as 51 percent of the bottom covered with live coral, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary teems with colorful and vibrant life.

The live-bottom reef of Gray’s Reef is home to gorgonians, sponges and other invertebrates. Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

They yield “mammoth” finds from prehistoric times.

There have been many interesting findings in the waters of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, including mammoth fossils and what is estimated to be a 36,000 year old grey whale jaw bone. Both of these finds, among others, are expanding what scientists know about prehistoric land formation and animal distribution.

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Ten Amazing Cities from the Ancient World

From cities that lay hidden for millennia under desert sands, to Bronze Age metropolises, jungle cities, and entire complexes constructed on coral reefs, giant rocks, underground caverns, or carved into cliff faces, we feature ten amazing cities from the ancient world, though there are many, many more that continue to inspire and intrigue us in the modern day.

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Underwater view of (healthy) coral on the Great Barrier Reef. Note how blue the water is above it.


No, the Great Barrier Reef is Not Dead

You might have seen an obituary for the Great Barrier Reef floating around over the past few days. Published by Outside Magazine, the supposedly satirical article declared that the Great Barrier Reef had “passed away after a long illness” at 25 million years of age, and that “no effort” was ever made to save the reef.

This is not true.

It’s really, really, really not true.

Yes, the Great Barrier Reef recently underwent a massive bleaching event that affected 93% of its coral. That bleaching event resulted in the death of 22% of its coral.

22% dead is not the same as 100% dead.

So why did author Rowan Jacobsen write the obituary? Some are saying it was satire, a deliberate exaggeration meant to raise awareness of the Great Barrier Reef’s plight. If this was the case, the plot backfired spectacularly. Many people took to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other public mourning venues to declare their sadness and outrage over the death of the world’s largest living structure.

This is a dangerous reaction, but not an uncommon one. And it’s a reaction that Dr. “Rusty” Brainard, chief of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program at NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, worries will hinder efforts to save the very-very-very-not-dead reef. As he told the Huffington Post, people may begin to think that “if there’s nothing that can be done,” we should “not do anything and move onto other issues.”

In the interests of preserving the Great Barrier Reef’s not-dead state, let’s not do that. While the Reef is arguably dying, it can still be saved, and we should be doing what we can to save it.

So what can we do?

If the news of the Great Barrier Reef’s “death” upset you, please read on.

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Coral Reefs Doing Better Than Expected in Many Areas
A new study found "bright spots" where corals are thriving, despite global bleaching events.

Some positive news to start off the week right!

At first I thought it was a jelly fish, then, as I swam closer, I realized it was a plastic bag. – Expedition leader Greg Stone

Even remote coral reefs in Indonesia aren’t immune to the blight of plastics. Get the big picture on the Global Explorers Blog.

Thanks to tumblr for putting this on the Radar! Click here for more amazing photos and reports from this expedition to Raja Ampat Indonesia.


The species in the genus Paracheilinus are appropriately called flasher wrasses (or simply flashers), and they are very closely related to fairy wrasses of the genus Cirrhilabrus. This common name is derived from their grandeur “flashing” behavior observed during courting or mating where the male will make quick, exaggerated lateral moves while intensifying his colors and erecting his fins to attract a mate.

               Paracheilinus xanthocirritus Currently known from the South China Sea at the Anambas Islands, Indonesia  In the picture, two nuptial male Paracheilinus xanthocirritus

                  Paracheilinus paineorum with a wide distribution throughout central Indonesia  in the picture a male courting female (left)

                    Paracheilinus alfiani is currently known only from the type locality on the northern coast of Lembata Island in the Lesser Sunda Group of Indonesia

Just like trees, corals accumulate rings as they grow. This is a cross-section of a deep sea coral, glowing purple under ultraviolet light. 

Just like trees, coral growth changes based on temperature, light and nutrient availability – and these fluctuations are reflected in their growth rings. Scientists can use these cross-sections to study past ocean climate!

(via Coral Growth Rings | Ocean Portal | Smithsonian)


Reimagined Ecosystems

Coral reefs come in many shapes, sizes and colours. Not only are they important to the oceans, but to the environment as a whole. Acting as the ‘rainforests of the sea’, coral reefs are home to a large array of diverse animals and plants, as well as being natural breakwaters which help to minimize the impact and damage from natural disasters such as cyclones. Coral reefs are not only beautiful, they are essentially life-sustaining, providing shelter for animals, which then feed people living near the reefs.

Artists that look to reefs for inspiration in their work include Courtney Mattison and Jane Ladan.

In Mattison’s show Our Changing Seas III, the artist creates large scale ceramic coral reef sculptures, some white and some coloured, in order to show the effects that global warming has on the reefs. The vibrant reefs begin to be swallowed up by the bleached, dying reefs. The artist hopes that her work can influence others to act fast to protect the reefs while there is still time to save the living ones, and hopefully restore the bleached reefs to their once vibrant and life-sustaining selves.

Jane Ladan works with the colours of these reefs to create her wearable art. The Mauritius-born artist, who is based in Ottawa, creates works that celebrate the rich colours and textures that are found in nature. She also uses Mauritius’ unique cultural blend, with influences coming from countries such as China and India, and its environment, mixing exotic flowers with undersea foliage, to help shape how she expresses herself creatively.

Where Mattison creates work to encourage preservation, Ladan creates work with a similar theme, in the sense that the beauty of her pieces should be seen as a reminder of the beauty of all natural things; in order to keep appreciating this beauty, we must do our part to help preserve it.

-Anna Paluch