Learn more about Gray’s Reef as Hōkūleʻa passes by

Diver conducting fish survey on Gray’s Reef with a variety of invertebrates in image including soft coral, finger sponge, and a few fish. Georgia, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Summer, 2006. Photographer: Greg McFall, Gray’s Reef NMS, NOS, NOAA.

As Hōkūleʻa and her crew move up the Intracoastal Waterway, they are passing through waters and coastlines that teach us valuable lessons about precious natural resources and how our environment changes over time.  Read more about the amazing history of Gray’s Reef off the coast of Georgia!

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Hōkūleʻa’s location on April 12, 2016.

Did you know that reefs aren’t all made of coral?  The reefs we explore and protect here in Hawaiʻi are made when living coral larvae attach themselves to the sea floor and rocks, growing and spreading to form the magnificent habitats for marine life that we know and love.

Some reefs are formed in a completely different way, without living coral.  Those off the Atlantic Coast where Hōkūleʻa and her crew are currently traveling, like Gray’s Reef off the coast of Georgia, were formed millions of years ago when bits of shell, sand and mud traveled via rivers and ocean to the Atlantic Coast and “cemented” together with seawater to form sandstone.

Over the course of millions of years, sea level has changed dramatically in the area.  So much so that at one time (sometime between 2 million and 10,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene epoch), Gray’s Reef was actually above sea level – the Reef was exposed and became dry land!  Fossils such as mammoths have been found at the reef!

Black sea bass (Centropristis striata) hovering over the reef. Georgia, Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Summer, 2006. Photographer: Greg McFall, Gray's Reef NMS, NOS, NOAA.

Black sea bass (Centropristis striata) hovering over the reef. Georgia, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Summer, 2006.
Photographer: Greg McFall, Gray’s Reef NMS, NOS, NOAA.

NOAA’s Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS) is home to many marine species, including the threatened loggerhead sea turtle which forages and rests year-round at Gray’s Reef, and the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale (the reef is within the only known winter calving ground for this species).
The sanctuary encompasses 22 square miles off the Georgia coast. It is the only protected natural reef and one of a few natural marine protected areas in the Atlantic Ocean between Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and Cape Canaveral, Florida.

To read more about the Reef, please visit http://graysreef.noaa.gov/.

Check out some of the other reefs our crews have visited:

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