Newly Discovered Coral Reef in Australia Dwarfs Empire State Building

The unexpected reef discovery may help scientists find unknown structures and species in the ocean.
Irmak Bayrakdar
Illustration of the discovered coral reef. Schmidt Ocean Institute

Scientists in Australia just came across a 1,640-foot-tall (500 m) coral reef — taller than the world's most iconic skyscrapers, including the Empire State Building, according to a recent press release from the Schmidt Ocean Institute.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef — spanning roughly 133,000 square miles (344,400 km²), according to Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority webpage. The massive reef is also home to several living organisms, including 1,500 species of fish and 411 species of hard corals.

First reef discovery in the last 120 years

The newly discovered blade-shaped reef is the first detached reef the scientists have found in the last 120 years — and it's 4,921-foot (1.5-km) wide, with a towering height of 1,600 feet (500 m), according to the Schmidt Ocean Institute.

The research team discovered the reef on Oct. 20 of this year — after conducting an underwater mapping effort of the northern Great Barrier Reef seafloor aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute's Falkor vessel. After noticing the reef, the team of scientists — under the leadership of Professor Robin Beaman from James Cook University, dived on October 25 with Schmidt Ocean Institute’s underwater robot "SuBastian" to explore further, per CNN.

Newly Discovered Coral Reef in Australia Dwarfs Empire State Building
Falkor working on the Great Barrier Reef with SuBastian. Source: Schmidt Ocean Institute

“We are surprised and elated by what we have found,” said Beaman, who was also lead scientist. “To not only 3D map the reef in detail, but also visually see this discovery with SuBastian is incredible. This has only been made possible by the commitment of Schmidt Ocean Institute to grant ship time to Australia’s scientists.”


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Newly discovered reef dwarfs Empire State

As stated in the company's press release, the new reef dwarfs several iconic skyscrapers — including the Empire State Building located in the United States, the Eiffel Tower located in France, the Sydney Tower located in Australia, and Petronas Twin Towers located in Malaysia.

“This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our Ocean,” said Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of the 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," added Schmidt. "New oceanscapes are opening to us, revealing the ecosystems and diverse life forms that share the planet with us.”

The team recorded the dive — which is available for viewing on Schmidt Ocean Institute's official website — in addition to the YouTube video below.

While this is great news for the Great Barrier Reef, there’s still a major threat looming over it: The last three decades have seen detrimental damage done to natural reefs — specifically from global warming and pollution — has led to a climbing rate of starfish deaths, while coral bleaching spreads like wildfire. This is why we should protect and work together for the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef.

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