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A Diver's-Eye View Of Great Barrier Reef
By Matt J. Weiss, March 2, 2008 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: Mercurynews.com
Two gray reef sharks glided effortlessly across our path, their razor-sharp teeth gleaming in the beams of our flashlights. In that moment, nothing else was visible in our pitch-black underwater world.

Active at night when they feed on squid and crabs, the sharks posed no threat to divers, our guide told us, "unless you do something absolutely crazy, like take a piece of bloody meat into the water with you!"

Yet knowing that most sharks are harmless to divers is quite different from swimming face-to-face with the hungry predators. My heart raced and my breathing quickened until the sharks swam away.

We had come to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, one of the world's most spectacular marine environments, in search of just this kind of adventure. About 400 kinds of coral, 1,500 types of fish, and thousands of species of mollusks and sponges inhabit the 1,400-mile-long reef off the coast of Queensland.

This amazing environment attracts scuba enthusiasts from all over the world, including experienced divers such as my brother, Dan Johanson of Castro Valley, and beginners such as myself. In fact, the prospect of exploring the reef with my brother motivated me to learn to dive.

Our outing brought us together with 30 other divers, among them Kiwis, Swedes, Germans, Koreans and Japanese.

We met in the city of Cairns, an adventurer's paradise where, in addition to scuba diving, visitors can enjoy ballooning,

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