The sea contains numerous islands and reefs, as well as the world's largest reef system, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981. All previous oil exploration projects were terminated at the GBR in 1975, and fishing is restricted in many areas. The reefs and islands of the Coral Sea are particularly rich in birds and aquatic life and are a popular tourist destination, both domestically and internationally. (Full article...)
Typhoon Paka, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Rubing, was the last tropical cyclone of the 1997 Pacifichurricane and typhoon season, and was among the strongest Pacific typhoons in the month of December. Paka, which is the Hawaiian name for Pat, developed on November 28 from a trough well to the southwest of Hawaii. The storm tracked generally westward for much of its duration, and on December 7 it crossed into the western Pacific Ocean. Much of its track was characterized by fluctuations in intensity, and on December 10 the cyclone attained typhoon status as it crossed the Marshall Islands. On December 16, Paka struck Guam and Rota with winds of 230 km/h (145 mph), and it strengthened further to reach peak winds on December 18 over open waters as the final super typhoon of the year. Subsequently, it underwent a steady weakening trend, and on December 23 Paka dissipated.
Typhoon Paka first impacted the Marshall Islands, where it dropped heavy rainfall and left US$80 million in damages. Later, it passed just north of Guam, where strong winds destroyed about 1,500 buildings and damaged 10,000 more; 5,000 people were left homeless, and the island experienced a complete power outage following the typhoon. Damage on the island totaled US$500 million, which warranted the retirement of its name. Paka also caused minor damage in the Northern Mariana Islands, and overall, the typhoon did not cause any reported fatalities. (Full article...)