Thursday, October 29, 2020

Coral reef taller than the Empire State Building discovered in Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Australian scientists have discovered a massive detached coral reef just off Cape York on the Great Barrier Reef that’s taller than the Empire State Building.
The 500m high reef was discovered while a team from James Cook University were mapping the northern Great Barrier Reef seabed.
Scientists discover 500 metre-tall skyscraper reef at Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
From NBC news by Denise Chow

An enormous, 1,600-foot-tall coral reef was discovered in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, scientists announced Monday, in the first such find in more than a century.

The massive underwater structure — the first newfound reef in 120 years — dwarfs iconic skyscrapers such as New York City’s Empire State Building and the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Side mapping profile of the new reef.
Image: Schmidt Ocean Institute
Broad mapping profile of new 500 m detached reef.
Image by Schmidt Ocean Institute. 

Video by Schmidt Ocean Institute

The detached reef was first observed Oct. 20 by a team of Australian scientists aboard a research vessel from the Schmidt Ocean Institute, a nonprofit foundation that supports marine research.
The 12-month expedition is designed to explore the oceans surrounding Australia and map the seafloor around the northern Great Barrier Reef.

“This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our ocean,” Wendy Schmidt, the institute’s co-founder, said in a statement.
Join RV Falkor as we conduct ROV SuBastian’s 401st dive on a newly discovered 500 m tall reef.
This is the ninth dive of the ‘Northern Depths of the Great Barrier Reef’ expedition.
Today we are exploring this 500 m tall ‘detached’ reef, one of seven other detached reefs offshore of Cape York Peninsula, which lie upon a ~500 m deep ledge extending out from below the Great Barrier Reef shelf.
The dive will cross the broader base, then climb the steep flanks of the reef to the summit at about 50 m depth - an underwater mountain climb to find out what is living on this newly discovered reef.
On Sunday, the team used an underwater robot to explore the new reef, finding that it measures almost a mile wide at its base.
The reef’s tallest point extends to roughly 130 feet below the ocean’s surface, according to the researchers.

The robotic dive was streamed live over the weekend, offering close-up views of the massive reef structure.
“We are surprised and elated by what we have found,” Robin Beaman, a marine geologist at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, who is leading the expedition, said in a statement.

“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,” said Dr Tom Bridge, a Principal Investigator on the expedition who is based at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University (CoralCoE at JCU).
It’s the first detached reef found in more than 120 years.
“This newly discovered detached reef adds to the seven other tall detached reefs in the area—all otherwise mapped in the late 1800s,” Dr Bridge said.
The collection includes the reef at Raine Island, which is the world’s most important green sea turtle nesting area.
The reef is located off the coast of North Queensland, in the area around Cape York.
Seven other detached reefs have been discovered in this region since the late 1800s.
R/V Falkor holding position on the outside of Ribbon Reef #5 as ROV SuBastian works its way up the shelf, working to reveal – for the first time – evidence into the origins of the Great Barrier Reef.

“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,” Jyotika Virmani, executive director of Schmidt Ocean Institute, said in a statement.
“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.”

Beaman and his colleagues will continue exploring the northern area of the Great Barrier Reef until Nov. 17. Data from the expedition will be publicly available through AusSeabed, a national Australian seabed-mapping program.

The reef is located off the coast of North Queensland, in the area around Cape York.
Seven other detached reefs have been discovered in this region since the late 1800s.

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