The Great Barrier Reef is famous around the world. But hardly anyone’s heard of Australia’s system of pristine cold-water reefs we’ve been exploring…The Great Southern Reef.

It’s huge – spanning 8,100 km from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, right across the wild waters of the Great Australian Bight. And it’s one of the most productive ecosystems on earth.

The seaweed there forms vast underwater forests, capturing carbon and providing food and a home for hundreds of unique species, 85% of which are found nowhere else on Earth. This richness in life is what draws so many whales from Antarctica to feed and birth their young.

But because this is such a harsh environment, many of these waters go unexplored and undocumented. That’s why scientific surveys like the one we’ve been doing from the Rainbow Warrior are so important.

In fact, a study release just this month identified over 400 new marine species in the Bight!

Whilst we were in the Reef’s waters, off Kangaroo Island in South Australia, we were diving some deep sites that have never been scientifically surveyed before.

Here’s what we found…

A leafy seadragon in the Great Australian Bight

A Leafy Seadragon! These spectacular creatures are found along the southern and western coasts of Australia. © Greenpeace

Clown nudibranch in the Great Australian Bight

These colourful little creatures are called Nudibranches, a group of soft-bodied, marine gastropod molluscs which shed their shells after their larval stage. © Greenpeace

Southern Blue Devil in the Great Australian Bight

The elusive but beautiful Blue Devil is a hard one to photograph – they hide out in caves and are very shy. © Greenpeace

Diver with the Rainbow Warrior in the Great Australian Bight

Underwater Filmmaker and Marine Biologist Stefan Andrews surfaces from a dive on the Rainbow Warrior off Kangaroo Island. © Greenpeace

Gorgonian Fans and Sponges in the Great Australian Bight

In the deeper waters life blooms amongst the huge, kaleidoscopic sponges and spectacular cold-water corals. These are filter feeding Gorgonian Fans and Sponges at Kangaroo Island in the Great Australian Bight. © Greenpeace

Decorator Crab in the Great Australian Bight

A decorator crab, so-called because they decorate themselves by sticking mostly sedentary animals and plants to their bodies as camouflage to ward off predators. © Richard Robinson / Greenpeace

Diver prepares in the Great Australian Bight

Marine biologist Stefan Andrews sets up audio communication with the divers in preparation for a Facebook live. © Richard Robinson / Greenpeace

Divers exploring the Great Australian Bight

Marine Ecologist Georgina Wood surveys Kingscote wharf on Kangaroo Island in the Great Australian Bight. © Richard Robinson / Greenpeace

Two divers with a People Vs Oil banner underwater in the Great Australian Bight

Marine Ecologists Georgina Wood and Sam Owen hold a banner underwater at Kangaroo Island in the Great Australian Bight. © Greenpeace

A spill from dangerous oil drilling here could hit almost anywhere across the Great Southern Reef. That would be devastating not only to the marine life that calls the Reef home, but also to the fishing, tourism and recreation industries, and the thriving coastal communities who depend on these reefs for their way of life.

If we’re going to stop catastrophic climate change we can’t afford to burn the reserves of oil we already have. Risking a pristine ocean for even more oil is simply outrageous, especially when we have an abundance of renewable alternatives at the ready. This is the work of an industry determined to eke out profit from a world that has already moved on from it.

If enough of us spread the word we can show that the world is watching and convince the Australian Government to protect it for good. Take action with us!

Max MacBride is a Digital Campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific