Scientists discover a massive coral reef in Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Catherine Garcia

Australian scientists working to map the seafloor around the northern Great Barrier Reef made a major discovery earlier this month, finding a 1,600-foot-tall detached coral reef.

This is the first newfound reef in 120 years, NBC News reports. It is taller than the Empire State Building and almost a mile wide at its base. The reef is off the coast of North Queensland, and researchers from the Schmidt Ocean Institute first observed it on Oct. 20. On Sunday, an underwater robot was dispatched to take measurements and explore the reef. The institute's co-founder, Wendy Schmidt, said in a statement that this "unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our ocean."

Marine geologist Robin Beaman, who is leading the expedition, said the team is "surprised and elated by what we have found." They will continue to explore the area until Nov. 17, and the underwater imagery being captured and mapping data being collected will help people understand this new reef's role within the Great Barrier Reef.

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