Researchers discover 'massive' coral reef in Australia that's taller than the Empire State Building

Wyatte Grantham-Philips, USA TODAY
·2 min read
This file photo taken on November 20, 2014, shows an aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of the Whitsunday Islands, along the central coast of Queensland.
This file photo taken on November 20, 2014, shows an aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of the Whitsunday Islands, along the central coast of Queensland.

Scientists have discovered a "massive" detached coral reef in Australia's Great Barrier Reef — the first of its kind in over 120 years. And at approximately 1,640 feet, it is taller than the Empire State Building.

The reef was found Oct. 20 by a team conducting a year-long underwater mapping of the region's seafloor, the Schmidt Ocean Institute said Monday in a press release.

The Institute's underwater robot, "SuBastian," explored the reef. The dive was livestreamed on its website.

“We are surprised and elated by what we have found,” the group's leader, Dr. Robin Beaman of James Cook University, said. “To not only 3D map the reef in detail, but also visually see this discovery with SuBastian, is incredible."

The new reef is blade-like. With an almost 1-mile-wide base, it rises 1,640 feet and its peak sits about 130 feet below the ocean's surface. It is taller than the Empire State Building (1,450 feet), Petronas Twin Towers (1,480 feet) and Eiffel Tower (1,060 feet).

The discovery also adds to seven other detached reefs in the area, including the reef at Raine Island, the world’s largest nesting area for green sea turtles.

Beaman's team will continue its expedition of the ocean surrounding Australia until Nov. 17. The maps will become available on a national Australian seabed mapping program called AusSeabed.

“This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our ocean,” stated Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute.

“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. New oceanscapes are opening to us, revealing the ecosystems and diverse life forms that share the planet with us.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coral reef taller than Empire State building discovered in Australia