A 500-meter detached coral reef has been discovered in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and it is taller than the Empire State Building, the Sydney Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers.

The reef was discovered by Australian scientists aboard Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor, currently on a 12-month exploration of the ocean surrounding Australia. It was found on 20 October as the team was conducting underwater mapping of the northern Great Barrier Reef seafloor. They then conducted a live-streamed dive on 25 October using the institute’s underwater robot SuBastian to explore the new reef.

They discovered that the base of the blade-like reef is 1.5km-wide, rising 500m to its shallowest depth of only 40m below the sea surface. This detached reef adds to the seven other tall detached reefs in the area that have been mapped since the late 1800s. The powerful combination of mapping data and underwater imagery will be used to understand this new reef and its role within the Great Barrier Reef, and the maps created on the voyage will be available through AusSeabed, a national Australian seabed mapping program.

The reef is taller than the Empire State Building © Schmidt Ocean Institute

“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.”

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