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Great Southern Reef

July 1 2018
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The Great Southern Reef (GSR) spans over 8000 km of Australia’s temperate marine coastline, where approximately 70% of Australians live work and recreate. Despite having immense ecological, economic and cultural importance, the GSR receives paradoxically low public awareness, understanding and investment.


The goal of this project is to increase public awareness and understanding of the GSR by documenting and communicating the diverse social-ecological values of Australia’s temperate reef ecosystems and the threats it faces. By providing real-world and interactive education opportunities through exciting new technology and captivating storytelling techniques, we want to inspire local citizens to take action at individual and community level to become proactive stewards of the GSR.

July 1 2018

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Mission Underway

Exploring Port Phillip Bay


Over the last two weeks we have been uncovering some of the hidden gems on Melbourne's doorstep in Port Phillip Bay.

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Rip Bank.


The rip is a deep trench (>100m in places) and the ancient path of Melbourne's Yarra River. The rich and diverse habitats of Port Phillip are home to a huge array of marine life and plants.

The currents through here dictate this dive only be conducted on a slack water at the end of the ingoing or flood tide and even then only when conditions are calm outside the bay. Tucked into the coral and sponge plastered beauty of these vertical reefs are a host of underwater creatures that like to shelter in the nooks, crannies, ledges and small caves that punctuate the drop-off.

To view a sample of footage use the password: GSR2018

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Dramatic coastlines.


Part of the goals of this early leg in our expedition has been to capture the beauty of Australia's southern coastline. From exposed cliffs to white sandy beaches protected by rocky points, this part of the Australian coastline is stunning, and dramatic. See below for a sample of aerial B-roll from the last couple of weeks.

Unique seascapes


After 3 weeks of filming here in Tasmania, we have seen a lot of spectacular marine life. From deep water sponge gardens and luscious kelp forests to tiny, unique invertebrates, the diving here has really exceeded our expectations.

View a short sample of B-roll footage below.

Spectacular sponge gardens.


This week we have been filming the waters around Governor Island Marine Reserve our from Bicheno, about 2.5h from Hobart or Launceston. The area was one of the first marine reserves established in Tasmania in 1991 and we can say without a doubt this place is absolutely teeming with life. In the deeper waters (below about 20m), where insufficient light prevents algal growth, massive granite boulders are covered in a vibrant patchwork of invertebrates, including sponges, sea whips, sea fans, sea tulips, zoanthids, anemones, bryozoans and hydroids. We’re here right now because winter provides the best visibility – up to an astounding 30m, similar to what we had today. The sponge garden in this picture is known as the “hairy wall” and is just a small section of a huge granite cliff face which meets a sandy bottom at around 35m below.

To get a taste of the incredible variety of sponge life, use the password: GSR2018

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Shakedown dive at Crayfish Point


After travel and before doing any really challenging diving it's always worth doing a shakedown of all the gear. We were lucky enough to have a local guide in our friend Olivia Johnson, who took us on a tour of one of Tasmania's oldest marine reserves (a fisheries research area), at Crayfish Point off Taroona.

The site really lived up to its name, with a lot of crayfish of all sizes, but also an incredible abundance of tiny invertebrates living on the seaweed. We'll get some photo's up for you to check out soon.

The apple isle? How about the "kelp isle" :)


We've just arrived in Tasmania on part of our assignment with @insidenatgeo to help raise the public profile of The Great Southern Reef by telling stories of the passionate individuals and teams that call this reef home.

Tasmania has one of the most biologically diverse and unique marine environments in the world, but these waters often go unrecognised. We're here to film some of the unique marine life and hear the stories of those who live closely with the pristine rocky reef coastline down South.

Stay tuned for updates. In the meantime, enjoy this imagery from first day of filming in the state.

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Preparation Stage

Hosting the 2018 Australasian OWUSS Rolex Scholar Olivia Johnson.


On this leg of our expedition we have been joined by this years Australasian Rolex Scholar. As part of her scholarship year, Olivia is interested in learning more about science communication, film production and ways to promote the importance and threats of local ecosystems in southern Australia.

Read about Olivia's experience with us at her blog: https://owussaustralasia.org/a-tentacle-tangle/

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Local high-school students experience the wonder of the Giant Australian Cuttlefish mating aggregation for the first time.


WATCH: Reactions of Whyalla High School Aboriginal Education Program students after joining non-profit group Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries to snorkel with the Giant Australian Cuttlefish in South Australia

Cuttlefish are back in force!


Early estimates suggest numbers even higher than last year (120,000 cuttlefish!). We can confirm there are LOTS of large healthy males and egg laying females present.

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Testing an OpenROV Trident!


Today we deployed the Open ROV Trident at the cuttlefish aggregation to test the capabilities of the rov for live streaming across Facebook. We're hoping to do this at several locations across the Great Southern Reef during this project, but we learned a lot today about improvements we can make for the next one.

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Diving with Giant Cuttlefish in South Australia

Join us live from the Giant Australian Cuttlefish aggregation in Whyalla! Turn up the volume ^^ to hear some great commentary from the team on these amazing images direct from the ROV as we check out all the action at this amazing annual mating aggregation in South Australia.

Posted by Ocean Imaging on Monday, July 2, 2018

Touchdown at Point Lowly for the annul Giant Australian Cuttlefish aggregation.


Three of the Great Southern Reef team have made it to Whyalla to test some of the new equipment that will be used on this project in coming months.

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Expedition Background

The goal of the Great Southern Reef project is to increase public awareness and understanding of Australia's southern coastline by documenting and communicating the diverse social-ecological values of this region.


Through the art of storytelling and use of exciting technologies, we want to build the identity of these reefs by showcasing the inspiring stories of the people who have dedicated their lives to understanding, exploring and protecting these areas.

“What a lot of people don’t realise is just how productive the waters of southern Australia are. We have world class diving, surfing, eco-tourism, and fishing experiences here, yet most people have never heard of The Great Southern Reef.” explained Dr. Scott Bennett, the project leader.

In 2016 Scott led a scientific publication with scientists from states neighbouring the GSR, highlighting the need to give Australia’s temperate reefs an identity. “This interconnected system of rocky reef kelp forests is worth at least AU$10 billion year from fishing and tourism alone.” explained Dr. Bennett. “The GSR is also right next-door to the majority of Australians - it fringes the coast between Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney and almost up to Brisbane, and is really important for many of our smaller coastal cities and towns.”

Over the next 12 months we will be filming right across (and underneath) The Great Southern Reef showcasing the efforts of local citizens who are taking action at individual and community level to inspire others to also become proactive stewards of the GSR.

Stay tuned for live updates right here on Open Explorer and by following and engaging with the #GreatSouthernReef

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