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Ocean survey finds 500m tall reef off Queensland coast

Janelle Miles, October 29, 2020 6:45PM The Courier-Mail

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Schmidt Ocean Institute’s 83m research vessel Falkor surveying the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Picture: supplied media_cameraSchmidt Ocean Institute’s 83m research vessel Falkor surveying the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Picture: supplied


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A new coral reef taller than New York’s Empire State Building has been discovered in remote waters off Cape York, Queensland.

Like an underwater mountain, the unnamed reef is about 1.5km long and rises to more than 500m tall, its pinnacle* sitting about 40m below the surface of the ocean.

That’s about 200m higher than France’s Eiffel Tower in Paris, and also dwarfs Australia’s tallest skyscraper, the Q1 tower on the Gold Coast, Queensland, which stands at 322m. The next tallest is Victoria’s Australian 108, at 316.7m.

Scientists are excited about the possibility of finding new marine species there.

An international team, led by Queensland researchers, made the unexpected discovery last week about 80km east of Cape Grenville.

The new reef is among a cluster of eight tall “detached” reefs in the area, so-called because they sit outside the main body of the Great Barrier Reef.

But while the other seven reefs were all mapped in the 1800s, the new discovery has remained unexplored until now. It’s the first detached reef found in more than 120 years.

That’s probably because the completely submerged* reef did not pose a navigational hazard* to ships in the 1800s.

Tom Bridge, a James Cook University senior research fellow and senior curator of corals at the Queensland Museum, was involved in a five-hour exploration of the reef on Monday using a remotely operated robot.

media_cameraA remotely operated robot is being used to map and film underwater. Picture: supplied

Dr Bridge said he expected the reef to reveal marine species not yet described by scientists.

He said much work was ahead analysing specimens collected and information captured on video of the new reef from the robot.

media_cameraThere is a lot of work still to be done analysing samples and video. Picture: supplied

“We know more about the surface of the Moon than we know about what lies in the depths beyond our coastlines,” Dr Bridge said.

The scientists worked aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s 83m research vessel Falkor, which is on a 12-month mapping project of Australia’s oceans.

The project has already uncovered new marine creatures, including the world’s longest recorded: a 45m siphonophore discovered in Ningaloo Canyon, off Western Australia.

Researchers discover new coral reef off Qld


  • pinnacle: highest point
  • submerged: under the water
  • navigational hazard: a danger for boats


Coral recovery hope for Great Barrier Reef

Citizen scientists needed for Reef census

Very rare walking scorpion fish spotted on Reef

Healthy coral found in big Barrier Reef hole


  1. What did the scientists find?
  2. What is the overall purpose of their mission?
  3. How are they filming underwater?
  4. What did they find in Western Australia?
  5. What does Dr Bridge say we know more about than the oceans?


1. Name the Reef
This incredible reef has not been given a name yet. What do you think it should be called? Choose a name, then write a letter to the research team. The purpose of your letter is to convince them that the reef must be given the name that you have chosen.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science

2. Extension
What kinds of new marine species do you think will be found in the reef? Use your imagination and the information in the story to draw and describe at least three ‘new’ creatures.

Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Visual Arts

I Spy Nouns
Nouns are places, names (of people and objects), and time (months or days of the week).

How many nouns can you find in the article?

Can you sort them into places, names and time?

Pick 3 nouns and add an adjective (describing word) to the nouns

HAVE YOUR SAY: What ocean environment would you choose to explore?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in geography