Sands of Fortune

Deep beneath the turquoise waters of the Coral Sea, a living coral wonder has been formed in a breathtaking palette of colour by thousands of tiny polyps: the Great Barrier Reef.

By Queensland State Archives

The Great Barrier Reef

An astonishing 2,300 kilometres long, a series of reefs sweep from Cape York in Queensland's north to Lady Elliot Island in the south. 

Long Nose Trigger Fish (1950-01-01/1980-12-31) by Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

It is an intricate ecosystem of over 3,000 reefs, 900 islands, 600 types of coral, and has an incredible array of fish, sharks, birds, turtles, molluscs and sea snakes.    

The anglers’ paradise, Great Barrier Reef, artist Noel Pascoe Lambert, Queensland Government Tourist Bureau, circa 1930s, From the collection of: Queensland State Archives
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Various clams, Heron Island (1950-01-01/1980-12-31) by Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

A site of sacred connection

Over 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owner clan groups retain a sacred connection to this unique part of the Earth.   

Fish swimming around Red Fan Coral (1950-01-01/1980-12-31) by Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

Their songs, dances and stories that tell of rising sea levels, extreme cold and the formation of coral go back almost 10,000 years and have been substantiated by scientific research.    

World’s premier wonderland,, Queensland Government Tourist Bureau, 1930-01-01/1939-12-31, From the collection of: Queensland State Archives
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Giant clam, Magnetic Island (1950-01-01/1980-12-31) by Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

Snorkeller diving for crustaceans (1950-01-01/1980-12-31) by Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

A place of research and discovery

Scientists have long been fascinated by the Reef and field expeditions were popular in the early 1900s. 

Sailing near Pentecost Island (1970-01-01/1980-12-31) by Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

Queensland Government Tourist Bureau window display on George Street, Brisbane (1932-01-01/1932-12-31) by Agriculture and Stock Department, Publicity BranchQueensland State Archives

A tropical playground

Tourism was the natural consequence of such ventures and expanded rapidly during the 1960s and 1970s, playing a significant role in the state’s economy.    

Two women strike a pose on South Molle Island (1950-01-01/1980-12-31) by Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

Happy Bay, Long Island (1950-01-01/1980-12-31) by Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

Beachgoers at Picnic Bay, Magnetic Island (1950-01-01/1980-12-31) by Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

World’s premier wonderland,, Queensland Government Tourist Bureau, 1930-01-01/1939-12-31, From the collection of: Queensland State Archives
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Marine wonders of the Great Barrier Reef coral, artist Percival Albert Trompf, Queensland Government Tourist Bureau, 1930-01-01/1939-12-31, From the collection of: Queensland State Archives
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Lovely Lindeman poster, artist William Bustard, Queensland Government Tourist Bureau, 1930-01-01/1939-12-31, From the collection of: Queensland State Archives
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The anglers’ paradise, Great Barrier Reef, artist Noel Pascoe Lambert, Queensland Government Tourist Bureau, circa 1930s, From the collection of: Queensland State Archives
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The anglers’ paradise, Great Barrier Reef, artist Noel Pascoe Lambert, Queensland Government Tourist Bureau, circa 1930s, From the collection of: Queensland State Archives
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For a different holiday, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland Government Tourist Bureau, 1934-04-13/1939-08-01, From the collection of: Queensland State Archives
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Lovely Lindeman poster, artist William Bustard, Queensland Government Tourist Bureau, 1930-01-01/1939-12-31, From the collection of: Queensland State Archives
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Woman scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef (1980-01-01/1980-12-31) by Premier's Department, Public Relations Branch, Government News and Information Services,Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

A World Heritage site

The Great Barrier Reef became a Marine Park in 1975 and was the first coral reef system in the world to receive UNESCO world heritage status in 1981. 

Underwater image of Great Barrier Reef coral (1950-01-01/1980-12-31) by Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic UnitQueensland State Archives

Between 1986 and 2012, over half of the living coral in the Reef was lost. 

Marine wonders of the Great Barrier Reef coral, artist Percival Albert Trompf (1930-01-01/1939-12-31) by Queensland Government Tourist BureauQueensland State Archives

Although it was placed on the National Heritage List in 2007, it is estimated that half of the Great Barrier Reef is now dead due to coral bleaching that occurred in just four years, from 2016 to 2020.    

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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