An award-winning American environmental photographer and climate change advocate has died while snorkeling on Great Barrier Reef in Far North Queensland, Australia.
Gary Braasch, 70, from Portland in Oregon was snorkeling and documenting climate change effects in the area last Monday morning when he was spotted by his companion floating face down in the water. The incident happened near the Lizard Island Research Station of Australian Museum.
The cause of Braasch’s death had not been immediately known. According to the museum’s statement, the research station was quickly alerted and responded, with a nearby diver conducting CPR.
"An emergency team from Lizard Island Research Station then assisted with advanced resuscitation but efforts to revive Mr. Braasch failed," the statement partly read, adding that a volunteer doctor at the station also assisted and coordinated efforts with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
After conducting its own investigation, Queensland police cleared the death of suspicious circumstances. They added that the photographer’s family living in the United States had been informed.
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living ecosystem in the world and boasts of colorful coral reefs that stretch over 1,200 miles off Australia’s northern coast. Experts warned that portions of the World Heritage Site will be permanently damaged if the current El Nino phenomenon — among the strongest weather events in the last two decades — refuses to ease this month.
Braasch spent 40 years traveling the world and documenting the natural world through pictures. His images and works have come out on TIME, LIFE, the New York Times, and National Geographic, to name a few publications.
His central project since year 2000 has been global warming, becoming the first photojournalist, according to his website, to extensively journey from China and Australia to Antarctica and mountains worldwide to document the effects of climate change.
The Nikon “Legend Behind the Lens” photographer received numerous major awards and citations, including being named as one of the 40 Most Influential Nature Photographers by Outdoor Photography magazine in 2010 and receiving the Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography.
Braasch was also a founding fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers.
His books “Earth Under Fire” was launched back in 2009, and his works have been exhibited in museums globally.