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Scientists discover coral reef taller than the Empire State Building

The enormous detached underwater structure, located in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, is the first such discovery in a century.

The newly discovered reef was explored by an underwater robot.
Schmidt Ocean Institute

A 1,600-foot-tall (500 m) coral reef, taller than the Empire State Building, the Sydney Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers, was discovered in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, scientists with the Schmidt Ocean Institute announced on Monday. It's the first such find in over 120 years.

The massive underwater structure was discovered Oct. 20 by Australian scientists aboard Schmidt Ocean Institute's research vessel Falkor, currently on a 12-month oceanic exploration.

"This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our ocean," Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of the Institute, said in a statement. "New oceanscapes are opening to us, revealing the ecosystems and diverse life forms that share the planet with us."

The group livestreamed their exploration of the reef, using an underwater robot to examine it.

"To find a new half-a-kilometer tall reef in the offshore Cape York area of the well-recognized Great Barrier Reef shows how mysterious the world is just beyond our coastline," said Dr. Jyotika Virmani, the institute's executive director, in a statement. "This powerful combination of mapping data and underwater imagery will be used to understand this new reef and its role within the incredible Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area."  

The researchers will continue exploring the Great Barrier Reef until Nov. 17.