How a 1969 snorkelling trip was “cooler” than the moon landing


It’s 1969 and NASA had put two men on the moon. About 500 million people huddled in front of TV sets around the world.

But for a ten-year-old Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the thing that really got him excited that year wasn’t Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man”.

Instead, it was a snorkelling trip with his grandfather to what “probably wasn’t much of a reef” in the Whitsunday Islands.

Butterfly fish

“I just remember seeing this butterfly fish.. this gorgeous creature… orange and white with a long nose, swimming among the coral,” says Ove.

“Yeh, the double page spread in the paper with the first colour printing showing the astronauts on the moon was pretty cool, but the butterfly fish was potentially cooler.”

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a leading marine biologist, is the director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, but he’s best known for his work in the 1990s on the phenomenon of coral bleaching.

Ove is a special guest on a new episode of my Positive Feedback podcast. He talks about his journey from giddy ten-year-old to a scary realisation in the late 1990s that coral reefs around the world were going to be devastated from warming ocean waters.

Ove also talks about hobnobbing with royalty (well, sort of) and how a bunch of climate science deniers were invited to hijack a briefing he had organised to politicians in Australia’s parliament.

And a quick apology.  An earlier version of this episode had some rogue audio, where Prince Charles was talking over the top of us for a while. It wasn’t Charles’ fault.

I’m now up to episode nine of Positive Feedback.  Catch up on previous episodes at SoundCloud or however you get your podcasts.  And yes, it’s on iTunes.

Rating, commenting, sharing and reviewing the podcast really, really helps!

I’m producing and funding the podcast myself, but very soon I’ll need to find a way to finance it.  If you have any ideas (or offers!), please leave a comment.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg at TEDxSydney
Ove Hoegh-Guldberg at TEDxSydney. Credit: Flickr/TEDxSydney (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Author: Graham

Graham Readfearn is a Brisbane-based journalist. Go to the About page in the top navigation for more information.