Despite the fact that nearly 95 percent of the world's oceans are completely unexplored, it's still not every day that a major ocean discovery is made. So when something like a brand-new, massive coral reef is discovered, it's a big deal.
According to Raleigh publication WRAL, the large coral reef is located 160 miles off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, and is located a little more than 2,600 feet beneath the surface of the ocean.
The depth at which the reef is located makes it particularly unique as it provides hope of new, thriving coral reefs in a time when much of the world's coral reefs are disappearing.
According to the Guardian, many experts think that the majority of the world's reefs are predicted to be totally gone within decades. Decimated by bleaching and rising water temperatures, coral reefs are struggling to survive in shallow waters.
But exploring new, healthy reefs at much more significant depths provides the possibility of regrowth.
The coastal South Carolina coral reef was discovered mainly because of a group called DEEP SEARCH (DEEP Sea Exploration to Advance Research).
According to its website, DEEP SEARCH's mission is to "advance research on coral/canyon/cold seep habitats ... using a combination of mapping with water column profiling and sampling to improve knowledge of the geology of the U.S. continental margin, the types of communities found on the seafloor and the mid-water communities that interact with those seafloor communities."
An ROV collecting a coral sample from the newly discovered reef off of South Carolina's coast. (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
As Erik Cordes — the group's lead scientist — explained in an interview with the Washington Post, the discovery of the coral reef will provide insight and new information for months and years to come.
Oh, and just to be clear, this isn't a discovery of a small reef. This coral reef is 85 miles long. As the Washington Post also pointed out, that's about the length of the state of Delaware.
There's a lot of reef to explore — and hopefully a lot of insight to be gained from its inhabitants and environment.