Massive Undersea Landslide Discovered On Great Barrier Reef

Posted: Feb 8 2017, 1:52am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Massive Undersea Landslide Discovered on Great Barrier Reef
3D view of Gloria Knolls Slide. Credit: deepreef.org

Researchers discover what they beleive to be the largest underwaterlandslide in the world

A landslide almost 30 times the size of Uluru sandstone has been detected under Great Barrier Reef and it could be the largest landslide ever discovered.

The landslide, called Gloria Knolls Slide, was found 75 kilometers off the north Queensland coast near the town of Innisfail during an underwater survey by Marine National Facility's researchers.

The remnants of the landslide have been found scattered across 32 cubic kilometers of area at a depth of around1350 meters, making it largest landslide found to date. The remains were likely produced by a massive collapse of sediment that occurred more than 300,000 years age and trigged waves as high as 25 meters.

“We were amazed to discover this cluster of knolls while 3D multibeam mapping the deep GBR seafloor. In an area of the Queensland Trough that was supposed to be relatively flat were eight knolls, appearing like hills with some over 100 m high and 3 km long." James Cook University’s researcher Dr Robin Beaman said in a statement.

When researchers analyzed a sediment sample taken at the depth of around 1100 meters, they found a diverse coral community flourishing underneath it, despite all the dark, cold and harsh conditions. The coral community was providing food and shelter for a variety of marine species, including gorgonian sea whips, bamboo corals, mollusks and stalked barnacles. Furthermore, the place yield a number of fossils that helped researchers determine the age of the knoll.

The oldest coral fossil was around 302 thousand years old, suggesting that the massive collapse that caused these knolls must be even older.

"It's completely dark, it's quite cold, about 4 degrees Celsius, and yet we have a habitat for cold water corals that are attached to rocks buried in the mud,” said Dr Beaman.

“When we brought a sample up there was a lot more marine life there than we ever anticipated.”

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