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Although Captain James Cook is credited with “discovering” the Great Barrier Reef, it was known to the native Australian people for many years. The aboriginal people knew the reef existed and built large outrigger canoes to take themselves there. They even moved their various settlements up and down the coast making good use of the Reef area before the Europeans arrived and settled there.
Once James Cook discovered the area (when his boat shipwrecked and needed repairs), more settlements arose. The settlement on the banks of the Endeavor River is called Cook’s Passage.
Matthew Flinders is credited with naming the Great Barrier Reef. He helped create safe passage through the area, leading to the naming of Flinder’s Passage.
This area was historically difficult for boats to traverse, and there are more than 30 shipwreck sites of historical importance, as well as WWII sites and historically important lighthouses. The area can even boast of being the site for many frequent visits by Japanese pearl divers and Chinese sea cucumber fisherman in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Today, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is charged with the maintenance, identification and protection of the many culturally and historically significant sites throughout the area.