During the past year, the Schmidt Ocean Institute's Falkor ship has been trolling the waters off the coast of Australia, where it's found dozens of new species, including what may be the longest animal on Earth. Its latest surprise discovery is no less impressive: a section of coral reef as tall as the Empire State Building, right at the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, the BBC reports. Researchers on the vessel came across the 1,600-foot-long reef on Oct. 20 off the coast of Cape York in Queensland while doing 3D mapping along the ocean floor, per CNN. It's the first reef like this to be discovered since the late 1800s. "It's a big reef not to have known about," says Tom Bridge, the expedition's chief investigator, per the Guardian.
It doesn't look like there are a lot of hard corals to speak of in the upper part of the reef, but there is an "incredible abundance" of soft corals, sponges, and a variety of reef fish. The SOI livestreamed video last Sunday showing SuBastian, the Falkor's underwater robot, exploring the reef, whose base stretches almost 1 mile, and which rises up 1,640 feet, to just over 125 feet below the water's surface. Finding this huge reef, which isn't connected to the main section of the Great Barrier Reef, "shows how mysterious the world is just beyond our coastline," says SOI Executive Director Jyotika Virmani. (There hasn't been much good news about the Great Barrier Reef lately.)