The real Great Barrier Reef is not just a single clown fish or a colony of branching stag horn coral. It is not simply the crystal clear water, cocktails and beautiful bodies of the tourist ads. Nor is it just the stage for murders, mishaps, shipwrecks, shark attacks, crocodile death rolls or gropers that swallow men's heads whole and only sometimes spit them back out.
The real Great Barrier Reef is a living thing – a 2300-kilometre-long, untamed organism, made up of trillions of animals. It is the magnificent and terrifying home to the wild things of nightmares and hallucinations.
James Woodford wanted to understand the real reef in all its complexity and along its entire, extraordinary length. For a year he worked and dived with marine biologists, exploring it from the coral outpost of Lord Howe Island in the south to the crocodile-haunted waters at the reef's northern boundary in Cape York. The Great Barrier Reef is a thrilling study of the reef – of its beauty, mystery and terror as it faces its greatest threat, rising sea temperatures that stem from global warming.
Part science, part history, part travel and wholly adventurous, Woodford's book is as captivating, grand and magical as the reef itself.