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Marine scientists discover coral reef taller than the Empire State Building

The charted world of the undersea has just gotten a bit richer in color, thanks to marine scientists in Australia who have recently discovered a detached coral reef more than 500 meters high at the Great Barrier Reef.

The “blade-like” vertical reef, which is taller than the Empire State Building, was found off Cape York on the coast of Queensland during a 3D seabed mapping project conducted by a ship from the nonprofit Schmidt Ocean Institute.

Tom Bridge, a principal investigator on the expedition from James Cook University said the reef was 1.5km wide at its base and rose 500 meters to within 40 meters of the surface. The discovery marks the first time a large detached reef has been found for more than a century.

As explained by the Guardian, a “detached” reef is bedded to the ocean floor off the continental shelf but are not part of the main body of the Great Barrier Reef.

“It’s a big reef not to have known about,” said Bridge. “What it highlights is how little we know about a lot of the ocean, even the Great Barrier Reef. The marine park is 344,000 square kilometers – bigger than many European countries – and only about 6 or 7% of that is typical shallow-water reefs. We know more about the surface of the moon than we know about what lies in the depths beyond our coastlines.”

While the newly discovered reef does not seem to have many hard corals in its upper section, it does have a great number of sponges, sea fans, and soft corals, indicating the area is rich in nutrients. You can see most of these luscious sea creatures yourself by watching this YouTube video documenting the discovery.

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