Rare ghost pipefish inspires Hairy Harry’s Very Hairy Day

hairy harry

Underwater macro photographer John Magee has launched his first book Hairy Harry’s Very Hairy Day after making an incredible ocean discovery.


When diving in the Great Barrier Reef, John never expected to encounter a rare fish with a famous mane that went viral around the world. Now, he has turned this experience into a children’s book, launched earlier this year.

“Diving and photography are my hobbies and I’ve been heading out to the Great Barrier Reef with Passions of Paradise every week for the past four and a half years,” John explains.

“I was diving under the Passions catamaran one day at Hastings Reef and found some red algae on the seabed. Then I noticed an eye looking at me. It was a hairy ghost pipefish!

“In 30 years of diving I have not seen another and I’ve only heard of one other person who has seen this stunning fish on the Great Barrier Reef.

“I went back to the same spot a couple of days later and found him again. I took lots of photographs over four dives and then posted my best one on a Facebook page for macro photographers all over the world.”

The incredible image went viral, with more than 34,000 likes in two days. It went on to feature in The Australian, National Geographic and the BBC, and helped John to place as a finalist in the Australian Geographic Wildlife Photographer of the Year. With popularity growing, John started thinking about how he would use this success to make a real difference.

“Macro creatures are often overlooked, with people instead focusing on the bigger creatures, but they can be just as colourful and beautiful,” he says.


The Hairy Ghost Pipefish. Image: John Magee.


All creatures great and small

Inspired by the hairy ghost pipefish, John wrote his book titled Hairy Harry’s Very Hairy Day, which encourages children to fight for the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef. He wanted to spread a message about the importance of protecting marine life by helping them to connect with the lovable character of Hair Harry.

“Hairy Harry is a vain, but shy character who needs to go to the hair salon before he can talk to leaders from around the world about the delicate environment that he lives in and issue a plea for people to protect his home,” John explains.

“I have always loved the freedom of being close to the marine world and taking pictures of beautiful creatures.

“I hope children will learn that small creatures on the reef are important too, and we need to protect them.”

According to John, this is only the beginning. With three more Hairy Harry stories and scuba diving expeditions on the Great Barrier Reef in the works, he plans to continue using his voice for good.

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