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March 4, 2021
According to CNN, a coral reef over 1,600 feet tall has been discovered in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef — making it taller than the Empire State Building, which stands at a height of just under 1,500 feet.
Schmidt Ocean Institute, an ocean research organization, announced scientists found the detached reef in the waters off North Queensland while mapping the seafloor of the northern Great Barrier Reef. This marks the first reef to be discovered in over 120 years. The team used an underwater robot named SuBastian to gather footage of the reef and live-streamed the exploration.
“To not only 3D map the reef in detail, but also visually see this discovery with SuBastian is incredible,” said Robin Beaman, the leader of the expedition. The base of the “blade-like” reef measured over a mile wide at the base, rising 1,600 feet to its shallowest depth of 130 feet below the ocean surface. Beaman said he was “surprised” by the discovery.
“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. “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.”
There are seven other tall detached reefs in the area, including the reef at Raine Island, which is a significant green turtle nesting site. The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef, covers approximately 133,000 square miles and is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 species of hard corals, and dozens of other species.
But the reef is facing a crisis. A new study has shown the Great Barrier Reef’s coral population has decreased by fifty percent between 1995 and 2017. Additionally, the UNESCO World Heritage site has suffered three mass bleaching events in the last five years as our planet warms. This is troubling due to research done by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which shows that despite covering less than .1% of the ocean floor, reefs are home to over a quarter of all marine fish species.
ARTICLE: JOSEPH MODICA
EDITOR: KYLE SMITH