updated 10/22/2008 10:41:35 AM ET 2008-10-22T14:41:35

A Japanese tourist drowned while snorkeling off Australia's Great Barrier Reef, police and a tour operator said Wednesday.

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The 47-year-old man was in waters off Green Island on Tuesday afternoon when his wife lost sight of him as she waited on the beach, said Matthew Hurley, general manager of tour operator Quicksilver Group.

She alerted lifeguards who regularly patrol the beach, and a full-scale search was launched by guards and Quicksilver staff.

After an hourlong search, the man's body was found on the seabed about 100 yards (90 meters) from the beach. His mask and snorkel were intact, Hurley said.

He would not speculate on the cause of death and said an autopsy would be carried out in Cairns in the coming days.

Hurley did not identify the man, citing the family's privacy.

A statement from Queensland state police said the man was snorkeling "when it is believed that he experienced difficulties." They said an investigation into his death was continuing. The statement also did not identify the victim.

The couple traveled to Green Island as part of a tour run by Quicksilver. Quicksilver was only responsible for their travel to and from the island from Cairns, the northern city that is a jumping-off spot for Great Barrier Reef dive spots.

Green Island is the most popular destination on the reef and features heavily in tourism promotions in Asia.

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