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A plane flies over the Great Barrier Reef, at Queensland, Australia, on Oct. 10. Photo: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Scientists have discovered a 1,600-foot-tall detached coral reef at Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Why it matters: The shoal of coral that's taller than New York City's Empire State Building is the first detached reef to be found in more than 120 years.

  • Per a statement from Tom Bridge, a principal investigator on the expedition from James Cook University, "We know more about the surface of the moon than we know about what lies in the depths beyond our coastlines."
  • Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of the nonprofit Schmidt Ocean Institute, noted in a statement, "This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our Ocean."

Between the lines: A "detached" reef is bedded to the ocean floor, rather than part of the main body of a wider reef system.

The big picture: Scientists found the reef off the coast of Far North Queensland on Oct. 20 during a 12-month mapping project of the oceans of Australia. Researchers used an underwater robot Sunday to explore the find.

  • The "blade-like" reef is estimated to be 20 million years old at its deepest part.
  • "This newly discovered detached reef adds to the seven other tall detached reefs in the area—all otherwise mapped in the late 1800s," Bridge said.

For the record: The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world.

  • A study published earlier this month found the World Heritage-listed has lost over half of its coral populations in the past three decades because of ocean warming.

What's next: Scientists will continue to investigate and map the depths of the northern Great Barrier Reef until mid-November.

Go deeper

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he plans to ask the American public to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his presidency.

The big picture: Biden also stated he has asked NIAID director Anthony Fauci to stay on in his current role, serve as a chief medical adviser and be part of his COVID-19 response team when he takes office early next year.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.

2 hours ago - Podcasts

Faces of COVID creator on telling the stories of those we've lost

America yesterday lost 2,762 people to COVID-19, per the CDC, bringing the total pandemic toll to 272,525. That's more than the population of Des Moines, Iowa. Or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Or Toledo, Ohio.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Alex Goldstein, creator of the @FacesofCOVID Twitter account, about sharing the stories behind the statistics.