National Geographic : 1962 Jan
America's First Undersea Park Gulf Stream. Billions of their limestone skeletons form the foundations of the reef; vast colonies of the living coral animals grow on the dead, fashioning a fantasyland of strange forms. Tourists who buy coral at roadside curio shops see only the bleached white skeletons of the once-living colony. But a visitor to the reef may feast his eye on living colors-the green, brown, and gold of stony corals; the blue, purple, and yellow of coral fans and plumes that sway with the current; the pastel tints of towering sea feathers and graceful coral whips (page 60). Altogether, they form one of nature's grandest shows, a submerged landscape of awesome beauty. A preserve to safeguard this unique under water world was discussed at a meeting of Florida conservationists in 1957. Dr. Gilbert L. Voss, of the University of Miami's Institute of Marine Science, warned that the gorgeous Florida reef might soon become a watery desert if steps were not taken to protect it. His statement raised many an eyebrow. What could destroy a reef? he was asked. "Man," Dr. Voss replied. Coral From Reef Sold to Motorists Curio vendors were tearing the reef apart, using dynamite and crowbars. Bargeloads of corals, sponges, and the imposing queen conch shell were piled along the roadsides for sale to motorists. Fish collectors raided the waters, and spearfishermen stabbed ev erything that swam or crawled. Despoliation of the reef would have other consequences, Dr. Voss predicted. The coral gardens served as a haven for small tropical fish and a nursery ground for game fish. With out small fish to feed upon, the game fish Water-loving Morays, members of a Miami diving club, leap into the Atlantic's gentle swells above Molasses Reef to explore the sea floor with snorkels, masks, and fins. Head in Air, Body in the Water, a Diver Prepares for an Inspection Tour of Coral Gardens Charles H. Baker III clears face mask and breathing tube near Carysfort Light. Refraction of light by water magnifies his body about 25 percent. In this unusual photograph, the camera sees simultaneously in air and water, like the four eyed fish of Central America which has bifocal vision.