A group of scientist divers discovered a massive reef of rose-shaped corals between 98 and 213 feet below the Pacific Ocean’s surface near French Polynesia’s Tahiti islands, UNESCO announced on Thursday, January 20, 2022.
The reef stretches nearly two miles long and 200 feet wide. The rose-shaped corals are giant, measuring up to more than 6.5 feet across. It’s believed to be “one of the most extensive healthy coral reefs on record,” UNESCO said.
“We know the surface of the moon better than the deep ocean. Only 20% of the entire seabed has been mapped,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azouley said in a news release.
“This remarkable discovery in Tahiti demonstrates the incredible work of scientists who, with the support of UNESCO, further the extent of our knowledge about what lies beneath.”
UNESCO said the findings are “Highly unusual,” as coral tends to grow in depths of up to about 82 feet, where the water is warmer and receives more light. Divers logged roughly 200 hours underwater to study the reef.
Deep coral reefs have not previously been able to undergo extensive studying because of the available diving tools. But now, with drivers having the available tools to go as deep as needed, they’ve found some truly remarkable things.
Alexis Rosenfeld, one of the divers who explored the reef, said in a Meta (Facebook) post written in French that the reef is akin to the work of a “great seamstress.” He also added that “it was magical to witness giant, beautiful rose corals which stretch for as far as the eye can see.”
“It was like a work of art,” Rosenfeld said.
UNESCO said on Twitter that the discovery is “a great leap forward” for science, as it was found as part of the organization’s efforts to map the ocean.