Scientists Discover Coral Reef Taller than Empire State Building


An enormous coral reef has been found in the Great Barrier reef, Australian scientists announced Monday, marking the first of such a discovery in more than 120 years.

Measuring more than 500 metres high, the reef is taller than the Empire State Building in New York City (381 metres) and the Sydney Tower (309 metres).

The reef, located in the offshore Cape York area in north Queensland, was found this month as a team of scientists led by Dr Robin Beaman from James Cook University was carrying out underwater mapping of the seafloor at the northern area of the Great Barrier Reef.

The team conducted a dive on 25 October using an underwater robot named SuBastian to explore and 3D-map the reef discovery in detail.

▲ Scientists used a robot called SuBastian to film and map underwater. Image: Schmidt Ocean Institute
▲ Scientists used a robot to film and map the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef. Image: Schmidt Ocean Institute

The base of the reef is 1.5 kilometres wide, then rises 500 metres to its shallowest depth—only 40 metres below the sea surface.

Thanks to new technologies, Schmidt Ocean Institute co-founder Wendy Schmidt said the ability to explore is unprecedented.

“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,” Schmidt said.

New ocean-scapes are opening to us, revealing the ecosystems and diverse life forms that share the planet with us.”

▲ Newly found 500-metre tall detached reef adds to the seven other tall detached reefs in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef. Image: Schmidt Ocean Institute
▲ The 500-metre tall detached reef in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef. Image: Schmidt Ocean Institute

Seven other detached reefs have been explored in the region since the late 1800s. These explorations also include the reef at Raine Island—known as the world’s most important green sea turtle nesting area.

The scientists are currently undertaking a 12-month exploration of the ocean around Australia aboard the Institute’s research vessel, “Falkor”.

“To find a new half-a-kilometre tall reef in the offshore Cape York area of the well-recognised Great Barrier Reef shows how mysterious the world is just beyond our coastline,” Schmidt Ocean Institute executive director Dr Jyotika Virmani said.

“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.”

The reef dive was live-streamed and can be viewed below.

The northern depths of the Great Barrier Reef voyage will continue until 17 November as part of the Institute’s year-long research program.

Plans unveiled for Biobank to help save the world’s reefs

Design plans for a living Coral Biobank, a facility which aims to secure the long-term future and biodiversity of corals have also been unveiled this month.

If built, it would become the world’s first dedicated coral conservation facility.

The biobank plans to house 800 corals in a purpose-built facility located at the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef in Port Douglas.

Designed for the Great Barrier Reef Legacy by Australian firm Contreras Earl Architecture, the project team also includes engineering and sustainability consultants Arup and Werner Sobek.

▲ Design plans for the Living Coral Biobank. Image: Contreras Earl Architecture
▲ Design plans for the Living Coral Biobank. Image: Contreras Earl Architecture

Rafael Contreras describes the new building as a “living ark” with the ambitious project designed to encourage environmental awareness.

“This project brings with it a profound responsibility to consider the impact of architecture and the construction industry on the natural world.

“As one of the world’s major contributors of CO2 emissions and associated climate change, it is essential that the construction industry be encouraged by architects towards carbon neutrality,” Contreras said.

The primary goal of the facility is to keep alive and nurture more than 800 species of the world’s hard corals.

The 6,830sq m multi-function centre would also host exhibition areas, an auditorium, classrooms and advanced research and laboratory facilities spanning four levels.

Image:  Biobank The technologically-led facility would house 800 different types of corals. 
Credit: Contreras Earl Architecture / SAN architectural illustration
▲Image: The technologically-led facility would house and breed 800 different types of corals. Image: Contreras Earl Architecture. SAN architectural illustration

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