25 June 2003

New reef found in Australia
The reef is in unusually deep and murky waters.

A new coral reef has been found off the coast of Australia. Its 120 square kilometres sit in murky waters 30 meters below the surface, leaving researchers rethinking their understanding of the world's reefs.

In May, researchers cruised into Queensland's Gulf of Carpentaria to study the transport and dispersal of sediments from coastal rivers. Instead they found themselves charting a previously unknown reef. "We were quite surprised," Peter Harris of Geosciences Australia. "Initially I thought it was an old relic reef."

The find hints that there may be many more reefs lurking in rarely-studied waters. "It shows you how little we know about reefs," says James Darwin Thomas of the National Coral Reef Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The Australian crew spent 5 days mapping the sea floor with echo beams. As each day's work added to the image, it became clear that they were cruising atop a reef, recalls Harris. So they lowered a video camera. "We were surprised to see corals growing there in such abundance," he says. They carefully collected samples to study upon their return to the lab. � Geosciences Australia

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