"Sitting there [in the Triton submersible] as if it were an armchair and looking at one of the most extraordinary places on earth….a privilege given to very few." - David Attenborough

In 1957, David Attenborough first travelled to our planet’s largest living structure, the Great Barrier Reef, and it became for him the most magical place he had ever visited in his life. Shrouded in mystery and difficult to explore, he’s always wanted to return to this underwater paradise.

Almost sixty years on, aboard the Alucia, a research and exploration vessel equipped with the latest technology, David has the opportunity to unlock the secrets of the Reef like never before, using the latest filming techniques. With the Alucia he embarks on a personal journey of discovery to understand how the Reef was created, and meet the animals that call it home.

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In this first episode, David descends beneath the waves at night in the state of the art Triton submersible, the first of its kind to visit the Reef. He meets some of the tiny coral animals that built the Reef and helped to turn it into an underwater wonderland before he takes to the skies to witness the vast scale of their endeavour, a living structure that provides a home for thousands of species.

A sea turtle approaches the submarine and floats by gracefully.

Using cutting edge technology to generate computer scans of the sea floor, David learns that the Great Barrier Reef we know today is much younger than scientists ever imagined, and meets some of the people who have lived alongside it and have told stories of its origins for thousands of years.

At the beautiful Lizard Island research station, David explores newly discovered research which uncovers a complex community of animals who form remarkable relationships among the coral; from the astonishing hearing of the clownfish to the unique vision of the mantis shrimp. But none of this great diversity would be here if it wasn’t for one extraordinary event that happens every year, providing a spectacular finale: the annual coral spawning.

Facts About the Great Barrier Reef
  • Is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem.
  • Covers 344,400km2 in area.
  • Covers an area one and a half times the size of Britain.
  • Is the largest, most complex,living structure on the planet.
  • Is home to some 3000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and about 150 inshore mangrove islands.
  • Extends south from the northern tip of Queensland in north-eastern Australia to just north of Bundaberg.
  • Is between 60 and 250 kilometres in width.
  • Has an average depth of 35 metres in its inshore waters, while on outer reefs, continental slopes extend down to depths of more than 2000 metres.

And supports

  • 1625 species of fish, including 1400 coral reef species.
  • 630 species of echinoderm (starfish, sea urchins).
  • 14 species of sea snakes.
  • 215 species of birds including 22 species of seabirds and 32 species of shorebirds.
  • 6 of the world's 7 species of marine turtle.
  • 30 species of whales and dolphins.
  • 133 species of sharks and rays.