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Happily aloft in the vicinity of my father’s hat, and the weather having cleared since the Ohioan missed its compass heading, I was free to form my earliest impression of the sea at a safe and sunny distance, lulled by the sound of waves breaking on the beach, delighting in the drift of gulls in a bright blue sky.

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Leave it to global warming to ruin both a day at the beach and an entire oceanic ecosystem. Researchers are blaming the environment's public enemy No. 1 as well as rising seawater acidity for what has been the slowest coral growth rate at the Great Barrier Reef in more than 400 years.

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