PICTURED: Marine life at around 50 meters on the newly discovered reef spire. Photo credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute.
It’s often said that we know more about the surface of our moon than the surface of our oceans’ floors, and one needn’t look further than the story of a team of Australian oceanographers who discovered a coral reef taller than the Empire State Building and the Shanghai World Financial Building right next to the Great Barrier Reef.
Representing the most significant find in 120 years, the reef spire, which was discovered in the Cape York area of the Great Barrier Reef, which most certainly must be the most explored reef on earth, is slightly detached from the former, and measures 1.5 kilometers-wide and 500 meters tall (or five and a half football fields), with its tip sitting just 40 meters below the surface of the water.
Schmidt Ocean Institute announced in October that the reef spire, one of 7 such detached reefs in the waters surrounding the Great Barrier Reef, was discovered by Australian scientists aboard the Institute’s research vessel Falkor, which is currently on a 12-month exploration of the ocean surrounding Australia.
“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, but 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.”
Five days after its discovery, the team used one of their submersibles capable of live streaming HD video during a dive to explore the new reef and stream it to YouTube.
The Schmidt Ocean Institute has been making all manner of breakthroughs under the ocean in recent years.
In February, scientists from Schmidt found never before seen deep sea coral gardens and graveyards in Bremer Canyon Marine Park. in April, they discovered the longest recorded sea creature–a 45m siphonophore in Ningaloo Canyon, plus up to 30 other new species. In August, they continued their success by discovering five undescribed species of black coral and sponges and recorded Australia’s first observation of rare scorpionfish in the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks.
But as Dr. Jyotika Virmani, director of the Institute said in a statement, this new reef had an entirely different feeling. “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.”
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