A team of scientists from James Cook University, led by Robin Beaman, were mapping the northern seabed of the Great Barrier Reef on board the Falkor Institute’s research vessel, when they found the reef on October 20. “We are surprised and delighted with what we have found,” said Beaman.
WATCH | Scientists explore newly discovered huge reef
He said it was the first detached reef of this size to be discovered in more than 120 years and that it thrived with a “blizzard of fish” in a healthy ecosystem.
The discovery comes after a study earlier this month found that the Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its coral in the past three decades.
Reef explored by a robot
Using the underwater robot known as SuBastian, scientists filmed their exploration of the new reef, collecting marine samples along the way, which will be archived and placed at the Queensland Museum and the Museum of Tropical Queensland.
“Not only 3D mapping the reef in detail, but also visually seeing this discovery with SuBastian is amazing,” Beaman added.
Although the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef suffered from bleaching in 2016, Beaman said this detached reef showed no evidence of damage.
Bleaching occurs when the water is too hot, forcing the coral to expel living algae and causing it to calcify and turn white.
The Great Barrier Reef stretches 2,300 km (1,429 miles) along Australia’s northeast coast, covering an area half the size of Texas. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1981 by UNESCO as the largest and most spectacular coral reef ecosystem on the planet.