In late October 2020, a group of Australian scientists discovered a 500m high detached coral reef amongst the northern parts of the Great Barrier Reef. This is one of seven detached coral reefs that exist in the area but is the first detached reef that has been discovered in the last 100 years as the other six detached coral reefs were mapped in the 1880s.
This is a wonderful discovery, but how was it only discovered now, and what does it mean for coral reefs around the world, and the ocean in general?
How Was It Discovered?
The oceans are incredibly unknown to humanity. There are so many wonders that we haven’t yet discovered, but thankfully because of scientific and technological developments, we are now finding out more about what exists in the seas.
This detached reef was discovered when scientists aboard Falkor, a research vessel from the Schmidt Ocean Institute, were 3D mapping the northern areas of the Great Barrier Reef. They then discovered the 500m tall structure, which base is 1.5km wide. This is a huge structure and the scientists then conducted a dive shortly after the discovery, using the remotely operated underwater robot SuBastian.
This dive was lead by Dr. Robin Beaman from James Cook University and was live-streamed on the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s youtube channel for the world to see the wonders that exist under the oceans.
Why Is It Important?
What is so amazing about this discovery is that it shows that we still have a lot to learn about the oceans. It was an extremely surprising discovery for the scientists and exciting when considering the issues regarding coral reefs.
New Marine Life
When a new underwater structure like this is discovered, there is a lot of discussion and interest from scientists in regards to the possibility of new marine life that might exist. Coral reefs have an incredible diversity of life within their ecosystem, therefore when a detached reef is found there is a huge interest in the creatures that may be living on the reef.
This discovery comes shortly after the Falkor also found new species of corals in the Great Barrier Reef. Back in August, the scientists conducted a deep-sea study of the Great Barrier Reef and, according to the Schmidt Ocean Institute, found five species of black corals and sponges that have never before been identified.
This detached coral reef has corals, invertebrates, and fish that depend on it, and perhaps new discoveries will occur when scientists carry on studying it.
What Else Could Be Out There?
This detached coral reef was found in the Great Barrier Reef which is probably the most famous and studied reef in the world. For this to go unnoticed for so long is astonishing and it makes you wonder about what else could be in the ocean.
According to The Conversation, the entire seafloor has been mapped, but only to a resolution of 5km. This means that any object under 5km we cannot see and therefore do not know is there. As this newly discovered detached coral reef is only 1.5km wide, it was not mapped.
This is really exciting for humanity as it makes us wonder what else could be out there that we have not discovered, and what wonders are there yet to witness in the oceans. It also suggests that there might be other coral reefs in the seas that are yet to be discovered. This is great news as unfortunately many of the coral reefs that we are aware of are ultimately dying, with bleaching events and pollution causing this harm. Perhaps there are some coral reefs out there that are safe from harm.
Because of the advances in science and technology, we are able to discover more of the world we live in. New sea creatures and phenomena are discovered quite regularly and this will only become more regular with more exploration and advanced equipment.
The recent launch of the Saildrone Surveyor suggests that more discoveries on the way. The Surveyor is an autonomous, robotic explorer with new technology to map the world’s oceans in more detail. It is wind and solar-powered and can survey depths of up to 7,000 meters. By mapping the ocean floor in greater detail we can see if there are any other coral reefs out there that we can study.
What Else are Humans Harming?
The excitement of new discoveries and the possibility of what could be out there is somewhat overshadowed by the realization that, whatever it might be, is most likely being harmed by humanity.
Because of global warming and pollution, planet earth is under threat. According to the Ocean Conservancy, 8 million tons of plastic is put in the oceans every year. This includes single-use plastic, such as straws and bags, and also microplastics which are small pieces of plastic that end up being eaten by marine life.
The bleaching of coral reefs is also a massive problem and, according to National Geographic, half of the Great Barrier Reef has died because of bleaching. Coral bleaching is a phenomenon that is caused by global warming and the temperatures of the waters rising. The bleaching itself does not kill the corals but leaves them extremely vulnerable to death. Many corals do not recover from bleaching.
We know the effects that we are having upon the marine life that we have discovered, but we can only imagine what other wonderful creatures that humanity is harming. Perhaps there are fish, corals, crabs, and lobsters that we have not discovered yet, but we will wipe out before we get the chance to.
Yes, this discovery suggests that there might be more coral reefs out there that are yet to be discovered, but the state of these coral reefs is unknown. Like the Great Barrier Reef, the undiscovered reefs might be half dead, killed by global warming and pollution.
In order to protect the known and unknown of the marine world, now is the time to act! If we are wanting more amazing discoveries, and no more real-life horror stories, we must change the way society works and our attitude to the world, especially our wonderful oceans.