Great Barrier Reef History

"Great Barrier Reef History and Evolution - it's fascinating!"

The Great Barrier Reef is the the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms and can even be seen from outer space.

So how long has it taken to make this amazing reef? How has it evolved? This page intends to give you some top line understanding about this awesome Australian tourist attraction.

Great Barrier Reef Evolution

The Marine Park Authority estimates that there are signs of reef structures off the coast of Queensland some 600,000 years ago!

The Great Barrier Reef consists of dead coral with living coral on top of it. It is estimated that the current (dead) Reef system was probably present some 20,000 years ago.

From 20,000 years ago to about 6,000 years ago the sea levels rose. This allowed the coral to flourish and grow and form islands. As the sea levels continued to grow, these islands became submerged and formed the reefs we have today.

Since 6,000 years ago, sea levels haven't changed considerably and it is estimated that the current living coral is between 6,000 and 8,000 years old.

Great Barrier Reef History/Discovery

It was the French who first documented sighting the Great Barrier Reef in 1768 - a guy by the name of Louis de Bougainville but he did not claim it for the french.

It was Captain Cook 2 years later in 1770 that got to know the reef very well when his ship The Endeavour got grounded on the reef near Cape Tribulation. In fact, it took nearly 6 weeks to repair his ship (at Cooktown) and set sail again and even that was tricky - trying to find a passage through the reef was not easy. It is known today as Cook's Passage.

Probably the most famous shipwreck on the Barrier Reef was the HMS Pandora in 1791 where 35 people died.

Matthew Flinders was probably the man who first spent extensive time understanding the reef between 1801 and 1803 when he surveyed the coastline of Australia. He found a safe passage through the reef which is still called Flinders Passage today.

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