Scientists have discovered a massive detached coral reef in the Great Barrier Reef that is taller than the Empire State Building.
It is the first reef to be discovered in over 120 years, Schmidt Ocean Institute announced on Monday.
The base of the blade-like reef is 1.5km-wide, then rises 500m to its shallowest depth of only 40m below the sea surface.
It is 500m taller than New York’s Empire State Building (443m) and also dwarfs the Sydney Tower (305m) and the Petronas Twin Towers (452m).
It was discovered by Australian scientists aboard research vessel Falkor, currently on a 12-month exploration of the ocean surrounding Australia.
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The reef was first found on 20 October, as a team of scientists led by Dr Robin Beaman from James Cook University was conducting underwater 3D mapping of the northern Great Barrier Reef seafloor.
The team then conducted a live-streamed dive on Sunday using Schmidt Ocean Institute’s underwater robot SuBastian.
This newly discovered detached reef adds to the seven other tall detached reefs in the area, mapped since the late 1800s, including the reef at Raine Island – the world’s most important green sea turtle nesting area.
Co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute Wendy Schmidt said: “This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our ocean.
“The state of our knowledge about what’s in the ocean has long been so limited.
“Thanks to new technologies that work as our eyes, ears and hands in the deep ocean, we have the capacity to explore like never before.
“New oceanscapes are opening to us, revealing the ecosystems and diverse life forms that share the planet with us.”
Dr Beaman added: “We are surprised and elated by what we have found.”
In April, Schmidt Ocean Institute scientists discovered the longest recorded sea creature – a 45m siphonophore in Ningaloo Canyon – plus up to 30 new species.
In August, they found five undescribed species of black coral and sponges and recorded Australia’s first observation of rare scorpionfish in the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks.
And the year started with the discovery in February of deep-sea coral gardens and graveyards in Bremer Canyon Marine Park.
The northern depths of the Great Barrier Reef voyage will continue until 17 November as part of a broader year-long Australia campaign.
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