The first detached coral reef discovered in over 120 years has just been announced by the Schmidt Ocean Institute in Australia. Scientists aboard the Falkor found that the natural structure is about 1,600 feet tall—meaning it soars higher than the Empire State Building, which stands at a height of 1,454 feet. The discovery occurred as part of a year-long expedition to map the ocean floor surrounding Australia.
The research team organized a dive five days after initially discovering the reef and has since shared more information on its size and shape. SuBastian, an underwater exploration robot, was used to retrieve high-resolution imagery and footage that allows us to see the reef in the context.
Executive Director of Schmidt Ocean Institute shared the significance of such an unexpected discovery. “To find a new half-a-kilometer tall reef in the offshore Cape York area of the well-recognized Great Barrier Reef shows how mysterious the world is just beyond our coastline,” explains Dr. Virmani. “This powerful combination of mapping data and underwater imagery will be used to understand this new reef and its role within the incredible Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.”
The finding is also good news in light of the Great Barrier Reef’s struggle to survive over the years. Since 2016, half of the 1,500-mile ocean landscape has been bleached. Scientists believe this is mostly caused by climate change as the warming water kills off algae and starves the coral, leaving the ecosystem desolate as marine life moves on to find other resources. Though the effects of climate change are still felt, new discoveries and research of the ocean floor are critical to preserving this life.
Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Australia campaign is providing valuable maps of the ocean, contributing to the Nippon Foundation’s 2030 project to map 100% of the ocean floor and AusSeaBed. This work will allow scientists to continue the exploration of this area of the Great Barrier Reef and to share their incredible findings with the world.