A "massive" new reef measuring about 1,600 feet has been discovered in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, making it taller than some of the world's highest skyscrapers.
Scientists found the detached reef, which is the first to be discovered in more than 120 years, in waters off North Queensland while on an expedition aboard research vessel Falkor, ocean research organization Schmidt Ocean Institute announced Monday.
The reef was first discovered on Oct. 20 as scientists completed an underwater mapping of the seafloor of the northern Great Barrier Reef, which is still facing a crisis as recent studies have shown that it has lost 50% of its coral populations in the last three decades, with climate change a key driver of reef disturbance.
At 500 meters high, the newly discovered reef is taller than the Empire State Building in New York (381 meters to the top floor), the Sydney Tower in Australia (305 meters) and the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (451.9 meters).
Scientists explored the reef using an underwater robot named SuBastian.
Robin Beaman, who led the expedition, said he was "surprised" by the discovery.
"To not only 3D map the reef in detail, but also visually see this discovery with SuBastian is incredible," he said in a statement.
Experts say that the base of the "blade-like" reef measures 1.5 kilometers wide (nearly 1 mile), rising 500 meters to its shallowest depth of 40 meters below the ocean surface.
The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef, covers nearly 133,000 square miles and is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 species of hard corals and dozens of other species.
There are seven other tall detached reefs in the area, including the reef at Raine Island, a significant green turtle nesting site.
Australia was also in the news in September when hundreds of pilot whales were found stranded, prompting a rescue attempt:
Rescuers in Australia are trying to save around 180 whales stranded in one of the country's worst beaching events.— SkyNews (@SkyNews) September 22, 2020
An estimated 270 pilot whales became stuck in shallow water on a sandbar off the Australian island of Tasmania.
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