Australian scientists found a detached coral reef on the Great Barrier Reef that exceeds the height of the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower, the Schmidt Ocean Institute said earlier this week, the first such discovery in more than 100 years.
The “blade-like” reef is almost 500m tall and 1.5km wide, said the institute, which was founded by former Google chief executive officer Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy.
The reef lies 40m below the ocean surface and about 6km from the edge of Great Barrier Reef.
Photo: Reuters / Schmidt Ocean Institute
A team of scientists from Queensland’s James Cook University, led by Robin Beaman, were mapping the northern seafloor off the Great Barrier Reef on board the institute’s research vessel Falkor, when they found the reef on Tuesday last week.
“We are surprised and elated by what we have found,” Beaman said, adding that it was the first detached reef of that size to be discovered in more than 120 years.
The reef was thriving with a “blizzard of fish” in a healthy ecosystem, he said.
The discovery comes after a study earlier this month found that the Great Barrier Reef had within the past three decades lost more than half its coral.
Using an underwater robot known as SuBastian, the scientists filmed their exploration of the new reef, collecting marine samples on the way, which are to be archived and placed in the Queensland Museum and the Museum of Tropical Queensland.
“To not only 3D map the reef in detail, but also visually see this discovery with SuBastian is incredible,” Beaman said.
Although the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 experienced bleaching, Beaman said that the detached reef did not display any evidence of damage.
Bleaching occurs when the water is too warm, forcing coral to expel living algae and causing it to calcify and turn white.
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