George Losey, Professor Emeritus, University of Hawaii, received his Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography working on the behavior and ecology of the fishes of the East Pacific. His research, mostly on coral reef fishes, includes cleaning symbiosis, intraspecific aggression and learning behavior. His most recent work on ultraviolet vision and coloration in reef fishes led him to Australia’s Lizard Island Research Station on two research expeditions.
During our farewell banquet on Coral Princess II, an interesting question arose: What color best represents this Smithsonian Journey to you? The majority answer was Green. As an ocean fanatic my choice was (and always is) Blue. I had to admit though, if I could add a “blue modifier” to some of the greens, green was indeed the correct choice.
Starting with the carpet in the ANZ waiting room in the Christchurch airport, green predominated. The carpet was modeled after aerial photographs of the surrounding farms on the Canterbury plains. On the flight to Queenstown, the squares of each shade of green to brown reflected the productive agriculture – a real-life version of the carpet.
Agricultural greens were soon replaced by the deep greens of alpine forests topped with a dusting of snow. These endless greens and craggy peaks continued right into our landing between the peaks near Queenstown. The valley greens covered the lower, glacier-scoured valleys that spread between the more sharply cut peaks that had escaped the glacial smoothing. Snow again provided a white contrast on the peaks to complement the ever-present white of sheep grazing in the valleys.
My favorite, blue, finally appeared in lake Wakatipu, the third largest lake in New Zealand, that ends at the Queenstown beach. But even here green had to be included to form the turquoise color of the lake’s waters. Recent runoff of glacial silt from the mountains had greened the lake to a beautiful compromise between blue and green. As the afternoon progressed, the waters seemed to spawn a growing population of the “young and beautifuls.” Twenty-somethings in their backpacks and leisure garb grew to cover the park in front of our Queenstown hotel with their drum music, tightrope walking, acrobatics and sit-and-talk groups. My temptation to join was tempered only by my age and lack of acrobatic skills.
The greens during our outing to Milford Sound took on deeper shades of the temperate rain forest and towering tree ferns. My blues finally ruled as our boat cruised out over the sound with the almost mandatory rains feeding the waterfalls.
In Sydney, I had to venture into the extensive Royal Botanic Gardens where green replaced the sandstone and concrete buildings. Australia Day in Darling Harbor provided a rainbow of people and fireworks to satisfy anyone’s choice of “trip color.”
Finally the Coral Princess II cruising up from Cairns to Lizard Island gave me my blue colors but most were again modified by a green tint of either coastal water or sandy patches on the numerous coral reefs. Weather provided a challenge for our captain to navigate to areas where we could enjoy the promised colors of the Great Barrier Reef. He mastered the increasingly rough waters to Ribbon Reef 9 for a great glass-bottom boat, snorkel or scuba excursion to the reef face. Green dominance suffered here as the reef fish enjoyed presenting every color of the rainbow in a beautiful example of evolutionary extravagance.
A quick dinner and relaxing evening at the Shangri La Hotel in Cairns gave us a finale to the story of our journey that is certain to turn our friends at home green with envy. I’m ready to go again!
To learn more about our Australia and New Zealand Tours, click here.