Australia’s marine gems
Spindrift for Schools

By Dona Bertarelli

I would like to thank our partner schools, in France, Switzerland and all around the world, as well as the 7000 students who followed us and shared our great adventure during the Jules Verne Trophy.
My main aim while travelling around the planet was to share with you all the wonders of the world through our observations and our encounters, not only with marine wildlife, but also with the islands and peninsulas that we passed, with the meteorological phenomena we experienced, and with the birds and the stars that accompanied us along the way. I hope my articles helped you live this incredible journey in the same way Phileas Fogg did in Jules Verne’s book.
In 2016, we would like to continue sharing the wonders of the world with you, through the adventures we have during this upcoming sailing season. Some of the amazing places we will explore include Australia and the Great Barrier Reef, the unique ecosystem of Lake Geneva as well as the fjords in Sweden.
I hope you enjoy learning more about our fascinating world, and would love to hear your comments and answer your questions.

To mark the podium success of Yann Guichard and his crew in their first ever event in the M32 circuit in Fremantle in Australia, we thought this would be a good opportunity to learn more about this great country. Australia is gigantic: it is 14 times the size of France and 186 times the size of Switzerland!

But what makes Australia truly unique lies within its ocean territory. Surrounded by three oceans, the country’s sea territory is the third largest in the world and the most diverse. Just north of where the Spindrift Racing team was competing is Shark Bay, which is classed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is full of marine animals including sharks, manta rays and dolphins but it is most famous for hosting the planet’s biggest seagrass meadow. This unique habitat composed of several species of marine grasses is at the foundation of complex ecosystems and is essential for the survival of many animals including the endangered dugong also called “sea cow”.

On the opposite side of Australia, there is one of the most beautiful living structures on the planet: the Great Barrier Reef. Located between 15 and 150 kilometers off the East Coast of Australia and covering around 348 000 square kilometers, the planet’s largest reef system has been listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981. To give some perspective, the Great Barrier Reef is so vast that it can be seen from outer space!

This one-of-a-kind ecosystem is of great scientific interest. Figures from UNESCO show that the Great Barrier Reef is composed of about 2900 individual reefs and accommodates an incredibly rich biodiversity: 400 types of coral, 1500 species of fish and 4000 types of mollusc. Six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle can be found in this area as well as many species of birds and marine mammals that depend on this unique habitat for feeding and breeding.

Such an interesting and beautiful place was never going to remain unnoticed: the Great Barrier Reef attracts millions of tourists every year, who can threaten the fragile ecosystem. Overfishing and pollution are also putting the area at risk, and more recently, scientists have highlighted the effect of global warming on the reef. Coral is very sensitive to environmental changes including increased sea temperatures. When coral is stressed, it turns white and eventually dies if more favourable conditions are not restored. This phenomenon is called “coral bleaching” and is one of the biggest threats to the reef’s future.

Many species of flora and fauna depend on a healthy reef for their survival, but it is also of great economic importance for the local population. We have a responsibility to protect this unique, beautiful and diverse ecosystem by promoting sustainable development and by minimising our environmental impact when visiting the area, se we can ensure that generations to come are able to experience this marvel of nature themselves.