Our environment has taken a serious beating over the past few decades, with climate change accelerating at an unprecedented pace. However, in some good news coming from the natural world, scientists have just discovered a massive chunk of coral reef off the Australian coast.
On Oct.20, a vast, detached coral reef was found in the Great Barrier Reef, the first in more than 120 years.
At more than 1,640 feet (500m) — higher than the Empire State Building — the reef was found by a team on a year-long exploration of the waters surrounding Australia.
The reef was discovered by Australian research scientists on board the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor while mapping the seafloor of the northern Great Barrier Reef.
The base of the blade-like reef is 1.5 kilometre-wide, then rises 500m to its shallowest depth of only 40m below the sea surface.
It makes a total of eight tall detached reefs mapped in the area since the late 19th century, including at Raine Island, home to the world’s most important green sea turtle nesting area.
The team of scientists, led by Dr Robin Beaman from James Cook University in Queensland, conducted a dive using an underwater robot, SuBastian, to explore the new reef and live-streamed to the institute’s website and YouTube channel.
“We are surprised and elated by what we have found,” said Dr. Beaman. “To not only 3D map the reef in detail, but also visually see this discovery with SuBastian is incredible.”
“This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our Ocean,” said Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute in a statement.
A study earlier this month, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, found that more than 50 per cent of corals that once made up the Great Barrier Reef have died over the last 25 years due to the impacts of the climate crisis.