A massive coral reef that is reportedly bigger than the Empire State building has been discovered in the waters off Cape York, North Queensland, which is located in Australia.
The discovery was made on October 20, 2020.
Researchers came across it during a 12-month mapping project of the oceans in Australia.
The reef is located around 80 kilometers east of Cape Grenville, which is around 150 kilometers south of the tip of Cape York.
The discovery is described as a detached reef because it is bedded to the ocean floor, which means it is not being considered as part of the Great Barrier Reef.
The reef that was discovered on October 20, 2020, is estimated to be around 20 million years old.
The deepest part of the reef is around 500 meters below the surface of the water.
This means that the reef is taller than the Empire State Building.
Research leader Robin Beaman, from James Cook University (JCU), said that the reef is a thriving coral community.
The reef sits amongst a cluster of 7 other detached reefs that were mapped in the 1800s.
The marine ecosystem of the reef is reportedly more vibrant that the others that are present in the area.
During an interview with ABC News, Dr. Beaman said:
When we got to the crest of it — it’s only about 300 by 50 metres wide — we found a lot of fish and a healthy shark population too.
Due to the deep water between this reef and the next coral community, the reef can act as an isolated seamount.
This reef also has the potential to evolve unique species.
After the discovery, researchers had to use an underwater robot, which is known as “SuBastian” to collect samples for identification.
They did this by controlling their arm from a remote location.
Dr. Beaman added:
It’s going to take time for us to work through the imagery and samples we’ve collected before we can say if there are new species [at this reef] or not.
Carlie Wiener, the spokesperson of the Schmidt Ocean Institute, said that the discovery of the reef shows the value of their ongoing project.
It was noted by researchers that Australia currently has no dedicated underwater vehicle, so a lot of the ocean in their country remains undiscovered.
Wiener said it is important for the country to explore their undersea environment so they can do more things to protect it.