Bleached from a Distance

Reposted from Jennifer Marohasy’s Blog

September 26, 2021 By jennifer 

I lent my underwater camera (Olympus TG-6) to a dear friend who recently visited Lady Elliot Island at the Great Barrier Reef. She came over last Sunday to return the camera, and to show me some of her photographs. My favourite is of the Parrot fish just beyond the magenta-coloured corals, shared above. Over the ledge the water is deeper, and the corals have a blue haze. This is because wavelengths in the blue part of the visible light spectrum penetrate water to some few metres, while all the wavelengths in the red part of the spectrum are absorbed by 5 metres under the water.

For those who have never snorkelled or scuba-dived, and who like to lament the dying Great Barrier Reef, the corals beyond the parrot fish in Jessica’s picture might all look bleached. But that is how corals look in the distance when visibility is good, because the water is so clear. It is only when you swim up to them, when you are nearer to the corals, that you can see their real colour.

When I see photographs online and in newspapers of corals described as bleached, I often wonder how the photograph was taken – at what depth and whether it was colour corrected. I wrote to a journalist, Michael Foley from the Sydney Morning Herald, back in April about a picture purportedly showing bleached coral.

Hi Michael

I’m really impressed with your interview with Terry Hughes and particularly how much online media has republished your article ‘Reef on path to destruction and clever science can’t fix it’ and that photograph.

I was curious about the image of the bleached corals. Where it was taken, and how it was colour adjusted. I sent an email via the Catlin Seaview Survey contact page, asking for this information last Tuesday (13th April) and to Sara Naylor at UQ. The email to Sara bounced, Catlin hasn’t replied.

This image was featured in many news reports back in April 2021, republished from a Sydney Morning Herald article with the Catlin Survey credited for the image, but otherwise providing no details.

What I would really like is the original full resolution raw image. Could you please send me this?

Also, where was the image taken/which reef, and when/which year?

If it was taken back in 2015 or 2016 or 2017 it would be important to know the state of that coral now?

Michael Foley never replied.

There is a wonderful library on Lady Elliot Island, at the resort in a room tucked behind the museum. I spent some time there most evening when I was on the island for a week back in May. I found a photograph very similar to the one I queried Michael Foley about. It is in a book entitled ‘Coral Whisperers’ by Irus Braverman published by the University of California Press in October 2018.

This picture is from the introduction to Irus Braverman’s book ‘Coral Whisperers’

The caption to this photograph provides a lot more information than the Sydney Morning Herald article by Michael Foley published on 8th April this year (2021). So, the photograph used in the article by Michael Foley was perhaps taken at Heron Island and back in February 2016.

It would seem somewhat disingenuous for a news story published on 8th April 2021 to be accompanied by a photograph from 2016 but without including this important information: that the photograph is five years old. It would also be useful if the publisher explained that visible light of a blue wavelength penetrates water, while red is absorbed, so corals even just a few metres away can have a blue haze and even appear bleached.

Also, if the Sydney Morning Herald are going to include a photograph from five years ago in a news story, why don’t they also show a more recent photograph – so we have some idea whether the coral is still there, or not?

The Sydney Morning Herald/ Catlin Seaview Survey photograph with the coral changed to beige by my friend Michael who first alerted me to this photograph and how easy it was for him to ‘fix’ what he described as the ‘blue cast’.

Of course, beige is the most common colour of corals at reefs around the world, as I explained in my short documentary film ‘Beige Reef’, that you can watch on YouTube.


The feature image, at the very top of this blog post, was taken at Lady Elliot Island in September 2021 by Jessica with my TG-6 camera. I also like how Jessica’s photograph so clearly shows that the Parrot fish’s teeth are fused together. These fishes eat live coral. I’ve seen them scrap the massive Porites and bite into pretty Acropora.

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Keef Wivaneff
September 27, 2021 2:07 pm

You’ll never convince the Gretards

Reply to  Keef Wivaneff
September 27, 2021 5:13 pm

We don’t want to convince the greens. Nor should we try to convince scientists. 90% of the world doesn’t understand science and, like scientists, they have one vote each in a Democracy.

Whilst sceptics have been attempting to convince scientists about climate change, the greens have been using propaganda on the people that count, the 90% ignorant of science.

We have all known for decades climate change isn’t about science, it’s a political game, and the only way to play that game is to get the man in the street on our side. Politicians will always follow the votes.

We should be conveying simple, memorable, factual messages the guy in the pub can relay to his mates. Everyone loves to win an argument. We should be giving people the tools to do that, and it’s not science.

Smart Rock
Reply to  HotScot
September 27, 2021 6:17 pm

You are right, HS. In fact, many of the scientists who provide the raw material for the Bad News Factory would probably agree with the climate sceptics, if they took the time to reflect seriously. However, they are all in universities or government institutions, and they have managers and supervisors who have been infiltrated into the system over several decades, and they are mostly true believers in the future socialist paradise. The same goes for those who run grant-giving agencies. any scientist who rocks the boat by criticising the consensus runs the risk of career suicide, or at least the prospect of never getting a promotion.

Mainstream climate scientists are in fact, the “useful idiots” of the movement to de-industrialise the west.

Getting the message to the man in the street is laudable objective, but next to impossible, given the way the mainstream media and the social media oligarchs have all drunk the kool-aid.

Reply to  Smart Rock
September 28, 2021 12:08 am

People who visit the GBR could be encouraged to photograph the coral with date stamp and GPS coordinates in as many places as possible to provide a database that could be used as comparison with photographs that supposedly show coral bleaching.
This should provide evidence that shows whether or not bleaching has taken place and might even help convince the man in the street.
Also having up to date photographs would make it harder for those who use out of date or manipulated photographs to press their supposed case.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Smart Rock
September 28, 2021 4:03 am

Excellent comment.

Reply to  Smart Rock
September 29, 2021 1:56 am

WUWT is THE most read climate blog on the planet.

I have called for this before; why is their not a layman’s section with a summary of the week’s developments in plain English. I love Dave Middleton’s articles, for example, but it takes me a few reads to fully understand them, and even then, my ability to interpret and fully understand graphs is poor because I don’t have a scientific or mathematical background.

We do get the SEPP round up which is well written, in an generally acceptable form however, however it’s long, with multiple links and often a good deal of jargon only experienced sceptics (without a maths or science background) can understand.

The media and universities have nothing whatsoever to do with this. WUWT has it’s own reach which can be extended much further by breaking things down into, memorable factoids that are easy to understand and communicate.

This is also useful for dumb journalists to deal with as well. No wonder the sceptical side of the argument is rarely communicated, journalists don’t want to spend the time and effort required to break the science down into a format they can slam on the front page of a newspaper. Just give them it!

The alarmists have been doing this for decades.

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  HotScot
September 28, 2021 5:49 am

Yes, you make excellent points, we do need to convince those ignorant of the science. And I have found that the intelligent non-science people are easy to sway with facts and logic. I have convinced a lot of friends over to the dark side.
Even my snowflake Sister-in-Law came to understand and no longer fears climate change.

Paul Johnson
Reply to  Keef Wivaneff
September 27, 2021 9:52 pm

Green Supremacy, with a blue cast.

Enough already
September 27, 2021 2:13 pm

It’s really sad. the ends NEVER justify the means!

Reply to  Enough already
September 27, 2021 2:50 pm

…. well, except when the “ends” are some parasite’s bank accounts.

henry Chance
Reply to  Enough already
September 27, 2021 3:23 pm

Many years ago I posted a question on the pH levels and the question was deleted.(not on WUWT)

My friend said the water is not acidic.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  henry Chance
September 28, 2021 4:04 am

Ocean acidification is a scam.

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  Tom Abbott
September 28, 2021 5:57 am

Ocean Acidification was invented by the clucks at Scripps, which used to be an excellent institution. They designed an experiment to prove ocean acidification, by creating an impossible environment in their basement labs. They sealed off ocean-water salinity tanks then pumped in enormously impossible amounts of CO2. This is their proof of what they want to find in nature but never will. Very dishonest and certainly NOT science.

September 27, 2021 2:47 pm

The fact that the 2021 print of the photo is cropped and the scuba diver blown up indicates that the coral is further away than they want you to believe.

Curious George
Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
September 27, 2021 3:45 pm

The trick is widely used. I remember how two years ago the rightist president of Brazil, Mr. Bolsonaro, was accused of burning the Amazon. The article was illustrated by pictures of huge wildfires – from the time of the leftist president Lula da Silva.

Reply to  Curious George
September 28, 2021 2:41 am

The majority of those fires were in Bolivia, not the Brazillian Amazon region.

September 27, 2021 2:48 pm

somewhat disingenuous for a news story

Do I even need to comment on that?

Tom Abbott
Reply to  philincalifornia
September 28, 2021 4:08 am

You should probably point out that “somewhat” is not appropriate. It looks to be totally disingenuous to me.

4 Eyes
September 27, 2021 2:48 pm

Please don’t let go of this one Jennifer. It is really depressing to have to put up with the depths of deceit that much of the MSM sink to but this is a very clear cut case of appalling journalism. They’ll just fob you off but that just means they dig themselves an even deeper hole.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  4 Eyes
September 27, 2021 3:00 pm

Not as appalling as the Seattle Times series on ocean acidification, ‘Sea Change’. Their two lead examples (corals and oysters, over several articles each) both involve clearcut academic misconduct, exposing an appalling lack of even minimal investigative journalism. Exposed in essay Shell Games in ebook Blowing Smoke almost a decade ago. Nothing about the warmunist deceit ever changes. They do not learn from their deliberate ‘mistakes’, as here.

September 27, 2021 2:59 pm

These people don’t let facts get in their way.
Long story short, someone replied to my assertion that Mother Nature can take care of herself by saying he would believe that when the Bikini Atoll recovered.
Challenge accepted. (h/t Barney from How I Met Your Mother)
OK, so not exactly a tourist paradise, but lookie that.
And from the don’t confuse me with the facts category:

“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” – 1977 Chiffon Margarine

And it is not nice to ignore facts. Nature, like (or as?) climate, goes through cycles.

Reply to  BlueCat57
September 27, 2021 4:39 pm

Yes I don’t know why the Bikini Atoll reefs self-resurrection story after being totally obliterated by A-bomb testing in the 1950s is not used as the “poster child” rebuttal of all the “doomed coral reefs” bullshit.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Mr.
September 27, 2021 5:55 pm

I believe the Bikini Atoll bomb was the 1st H-bomb … several orders of magnitude more powerful than an A-bomb, but you point is well taken. Corals are very busy repairers.

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  Rory Forbes
September 28, 2021 6:04 am

In the Florida Keys, it was common practice to toss sticks of dynamite into the reefs to make it easier to collect material for sale to tourists. Those reefs recovered quickly as soon as this practice was banned.

People actually become aware of some of these things but refuse to take the next step and apply what they have seen to a wider range of geography.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Pamela Matlack-Klein
September 28, 2021 10:52 am

Bad combination for nature … poor people trying to make a living in an increasingly complex and expensive world. Solution … cashing in on the growing tourist trade using innovative techniques.

The wonderful thing about nature is it’s ability to survive and move on. Humans tend to want conditions to be fixed in time. We don’t handle change well, it seems.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Rory Forbes
September 28, 2021 7:45 am

The US carried out 67 nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll between 1946-58 including 23 nuclear bombs one of which was the Castle Bravo H bomb in 1954, which due to a miscalculation was many times more powerful than expected at 15 megatons. Approximately 1000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. The explosion left a crater 2000m in diameter and 70m deep and the mushroom cloud contaminated more than 7000 square miles (18,000 sq kilometres)

In 2008 a survey found that 70% of the atoll’s previous coral reef species had resettled in the lagoon and there was evidence that the coral had begun growing again as soon as 10 years after tests ended.

Remember also that temperatures reached in an H bomb explosion are similar to those of the interior of the sun.

I would say that proves that corals are very resilient!

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Dave Andrews
September 28, 2021 10:57 am

You certainly made a convincing argument for the incredible durability of the corals. It rather reminds me of the Mount Saint Helens eruption. The devastation was so immense no one could conceive of its recovery. However, within two years life was already showing itself. Now it’s difficult for a layman to detect the immense damage.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Mr.
September 28, 2021 4:15 am

I agree that the nuclear weapon explosion should be used as an example of how corals can thrive after even the most destructive force is used against them.

We should also use the fact that corals have been around for millions of years through all sorts of different climates and sea levels and they are still thriving.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
September 28, 2021 9:07 am

all sorts of different climates and sea levels and they are still thriving

Not to mention the several atomic bombs worth of energy contained in the volcanic eruptions surrounded by coral reefs. I think they are especially adapted to that kind of thing.

Reply to  BlueCat57
September 28, 2021 9:04 am

It seems to me that many if not most coral reefs surround active and extinct volcanoes which can have the strength of several atomic bombs when they erupt.

Reply to  Jim Whelan
September 28, 2021 9:32 am

Talk about missing the obvious, me not you.
Now, we just need to check on recent volcanic eruptions in the ocean near coral reefs and see how fast they recovered.
Are there any around the Canary Islands? Isn’t there a volcano erupting there?
And it is interesting how panicked people are about eruptions and earthquakes. When you check the reporting websites there are both almost constantly. Mostly small, but big ones quite often that we don’t hear about.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  BlueCat57
September 28, 2021 9:44 am

Think of all the wailing and moaning we would hear if the alarmists could somehow connect CO2 in the atmosphere to causing volcanic eruptions.

Zig Zag Wanderer
September 27, 2021 3:08 pm

I live here and my daughter works with coral harvested from the reef. It’s absolutely fine.

BUT come and see it for the last chance ever, until the next last chance ever. Bring tourist dollars!

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
September 27, 2021 4:02 pm

… or get to see it before our state government turns us fully into look-a-like of the hermit nation North Korea; there’s a better chance of that happening than the GBR dying off !

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Streetcred
September 27, 2021 7:22 pm

I think we already are a hermit nation. Australia is the only country other than North Korea that refuses to allow their citizens to leave the country without specific authorisation. They also severely restrict the ability of citizens to return to their own country, and expats who do visit to see relatives are not allowed to leave without special authorisation either.

Celebrities and politicians on holidays seem to be exempt, however.

For this reason I shall shortly be an expat of this gulag country as well as the UK.

September 27, 2021 3:21 pm

There are so many sad sad stories in the MEDIA about man made global warming causing problems…recently read about the warming in the far north…warming from underneath that makes the ice thin…and changes the hunting patterns…food is scarce…the walrus have moved away…and the caribou too…it’s so sad…man is a bad person.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Anti-griff
September 28, 2021 4:18 am

It’s all our fault. The world was a wonderful place before we showed up.

Christopher Hanley
September 27, 2021 4:09 pm

TinEye image search reveals the image in question first appeared on the web on March 18 2016 and has been used in various forms 567 times since, the latest on reddit on Sept 19 2021.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Christopher Hanley
September 28, 2021 4:19 am

Don’t you love the internet! It comes in so handy sometimes. 🙂

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Tom Abbott
September 28, 2021 4:30 am

I should have added: “Don’t you love the internet, and the people who know how to use it properly!”

September 27, 2021 4:14 pm

I visited Australia in 2017 and snorkeled many areas of the Great Barrier Reef. The corals were already recovering nicely from the prior bleaching event and we saw a wide variety of living coral and sea life. I take the end of coral prognostications the same as climate apocalypse. Not happening!

September 27, 2021 4:21 pm

Peter Ridd explains the current record high levels of coral cover on the GBR-
Great Barrier Reef experiencing ‘record high’ levels of coral coverage | — Australia’s leading news site

We only became aware of coral bleaching events along with COTs attacks on the GBR in the 1980s due to the explosion of SCUBA diving and the Green blob has made a living out of booga booga ever since. That’s all Peter was pointing out at James Cook University but don’t ever threaten their gravy train although the irony was the Tourism sector started to get upset the doomsters were cutting their lunch with their BS so back off.

Reply to  observa
September 27, 2021 5:34 pm

Actually the COT grazing on sections of reefs was being recorded & reported in the 1960s by scuba divers Ben Cropp and Valerie Taylor.

(But of course this was happening before youtube and twitter, so as far as current “Centres of Excellence” in coral studies at JCU are concerned, it just didn’t happen)

Reply to  Mr.
September 27, 2021 8:13 pm

Yes it’s all about notoriety-

“Until the 1980’s, the only coral bleaching event recorded was due to flooding from Hurricane Flora that resulted in a large drop in salinity that bleached and killed many corals in Jamaica (Goreau 1964). Mass coral bleaching was first recognized on the Pacific coast of Panama following the 1982-83 El Nino event (Glynn 1984). The warm SSTs associated with the El Nino event were identified as the cause of death of over 99% of corals and the complete loss of reef structures in the Galapagos Islands and the death of over 50% of corals in Panama (Glynn and D’Croz 1990; Glynn 1993). The sensitivity of corals to small temperature changes then became a major concern of researchers as predictions of global warming and stronger, farther-reaching El Nino events came to light. The 1997-98 El Nino event is the strongest on record to date, resulting in unprecedented coral bleaching and death across the globe (Wilkinson et al. 1999). SSTs are expected to continue to increase worldwide (Hoegh-Guldberg 1999) and El Nino events are expected to increase in frequency, strength and duration, endangering the future survival of coral reefs.”

And then you get down to the nitty gritty of uncertainty but no matter the Green CREWS have to hop on board with the alarmism-

“It has been shown that stress caused by pollution, solar radiation, changing salinity, and bacteria can also result in coral bleaching. The Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) implemented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) considers various physical factors and issues ‘bleaching alerts’ when coral bleaching appears likely. The CREWS software evaluates the intensity of solar radiation, wind speed and sea surface temperatures (SSTs) when issuing coral bleaching alerts.”

Bleaching Background (

September 27, 2021 4:30 pm

Most people don’t have the time or the inclination to fact check the media. So, in consequence, most people are overwhelmed by the lies, the disinformation, the misinformation, and the greedy tax sucking politics. Most people just drop their heads under the onslaught of politicized pseudo-science and press forward with their lives. They are not believers. They are hostages who can regurgitate correct speak on demand.
And this seems sufficient for the purpose of the green, new world order fascist. Not a very solid foundation to build the future on if you ask me, but…

September 27, 2021 4:31 pm

Wonderful insight from an expert scientist.

September 27, 2021 4:44 pm

Jennifer tells it like it is again, especially about the subtle hues of healthy corals when you view them up close & personal.

I reckon Terry Hughes’ “Centre of Excellence” at James Cook University should be awarding PhDs in GASLIGHTING.

September 27, 2021 5:06 pm

I hope you’ve sent this to the GWPF Jen.

They are having a field day with Boris’ loony NetZero, and COP26 in Glasgow in November. The UK is facing black outs this winter, and if not then, probably over the coming five years at least thanks to the insane drive for wind turbines that have been becalmed this summer.

Dr. John Constable had a parliamentary debate recently and just wiped the floor with the MP’s who were grilling him. I fully expect it’s encouraged many other MP’s who are sceptical of this whole thing to speak out.

This is more grist to the mill for them, and, whilst another cliche, best strike whilst the iron’s hot.

Thank you for all you do.

Jennifer Marohasy
September 27, 2021 6:20 pm

Much thanks to WUWT for reposting and to Steve Messer who has sent me more information with a higher resolution image of that ‘bleached coral’. I’ve added it to the end of my blog post. Indeed, it would appear that the coral is not bleached at all, rather it is a beige coral with white axial corallites. More information here: and scroll down to ‘Update Tuesday 28th September’.

September 27, 2021 6:26 pm

America’s public schools are a disgraceful hotbed of Leftist propaganda…it’s high time to clean them up or shut them down and hand out education vouchers. “The ocean is dying from co2” meme i I s taught from kindergarten on through college.

September 27, 2021 6:54 pm

You notice the species of coral (Acropora) that looks beige can be a hint of green with blue/purple tips. They don’t look alive from a distance so you have to be up very close to see the little coral bits are very much alive (especially during feeding time).

Search internet for “heron island coral 2021” (All or Images)
Search YouTube for “snorkelling heron island” (several from 2016 till last 12months).

For now, the Heron Island reef (and much of the southern GBR) is relatively pristine” March 2020.

“At the tropical location, we sampled Pocillopora damicornis, Isopora cuneata, Stylophora pistillata and Seriatopora hystrix. Acropora yongei does not occur at Heron Island, so the staghorn coral A. muricata was chosen for comparison. A. muricata often forms large monospecific thickets making size structure analysis difficult. However, these fragmented thickets at Wistari Reef are on the sand at >4 m outside of the depth chosen to match the study site at Lord Howe Island. Therefore, the size-frequency distribution of A. muricata is unreflective of the breadth of coral cover of these large thickets at the deeper depths.”

September 27, 2021 7:16 pm

Steve Messer says

September 27, 2021 at 7:22 pm

Jenn, a quick Google reverse search shows this image was indeed taken on Heron, around January 2016. So well spotted.

Furthermore, those of us familiar with Parrot Fish in their natural environment can clearly see that the vivid pink markings usually found on these individuals are notably muted in your friend’s photograph… A graphic illustration of the point you made about colour shift towards the blue spectrum underwater.

Andy H
September 28, 2021 2:13 am

You could do a colour correction off the bubbles or the scuba tank (assuming it is silver/grey). That might give you a more accurate colour for the coral a bit closer than the diver is.

September 28, 2021 4:48 am

There is no “bleach” in “coral bleaching”. We should promote use of some other term to label this naturally occurring event in the life of a coral reef. Bleach suggests a chemical attack using chlorine – of course nothing of the kind takes place.

Much like “ocean acidification” as a term is a flat out lie – there is no acid in the oceans, which are all basic and naturally buffered. In addition to chemical buffering, whenever there is excess CO2 in the oceans, the aquatic organisms take it up in the form of shells and skeletons which build up over the eons to create limestone, coral reefs, and such.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
September 28, 2021 6:46 am

My first scuba trip was to Bonaire (Southern Caribbean; just north of Venezuela) in 1980, long before digital cameras, let alone LED dive lights. One member of the trip brought his own Ektachrome darkroom kit along, including all the chemicals (try that today!).

Anyway I had a nice time for the week, but any deeper than 15 feet or so and everything was blue-green.

On the last day I was asked to assist another couple of divers doing underwater photography; big waterproof camera case and large (hold it with both hands) light. We dove down to around 60 feet and they signaled me to turn on the light and shine it on some corals.

I was astounded; the corals exploded into bright pinks, reds, oranges, yellows, purples, etc. I don’t know how their photos turned out but I still remember my surprise and delight at what I saw.

In the years since I have dabbled in underwater photography with much better equipment but the results have been disappointing. Getting colors balanced correctly underwater still takes a lot of specialized gear and know-how. It’s so much easier just to buy the post cards.

Ed Fox
September 28, 2021 10:27 am

The staghorn coral in the photo looks bleached. This is very common in this species but you cant be sure because the natural color is blue.

Similar to blood under a red light, blue coral looks white in blue light.

In either case go back in a year or two Unless the coral was killed from pollution or fishing it should be fully recovered.

Coral polyps will colonize any hard surface. So long as there are parrot fish to clean the algae off the coral the reef will grow back.

Ed Fox
September 28, 2021 10:30 am

Bleached coral is natures equivalent of an empty highrise appartment building in a crowded city. It wont stay empty for long.

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