2018-09-07 / On Second Thought

Coral reef discovered off S.C. coast

Compiled by Warren Hughes

Tell us more about the coral reef off the coast of South Carolina.

South Carolina is full of surprises. You might think the nearest coral reef is in Florida, but think again. On August 23, scientists discovered a coral reef about 160 miles off the coast of Charleston a half mile beneath the surface and 85 miles long.

The Mother Nature Network, a leading source of environmental news, was among the international outlets heralding the exciting news.

Erik Cordes, a Temple University biologist on the oceanic discovery team, is among those thrilled by the find. He said he never thought a reef would be located in that area. Scientists have been aware that some coral existed in shallow waters off the southeastern Atlantic coast, but they never suspected that white stony coral would be found farther offshore in deep water. It has been described as a huge ecosystem that has existed for thousands of years. Codes says he is amazed it was not discovered before now.

Sonar mapping initially hinted at the reef’s presence, but submersible dives confirmed its existence. The expedition had initially set out to locate uncharted features of the ocean’s depths. The discovery comes just as federal proposals call for controversial drilling off the Atlantic coast.

Researchers hope the exciting find will delay those plans, at least ensuring protection of the important area. Oceanographers says it shows just how much there is to discover about our oceans and the importance of safeguarding its natural wonders and environmental treas- ures.

Coral reefs are the equivalent of underwater forests. The ten largest reefs in the world are The Great Barrier Reef, Australia, and the worlds’ largest; Apo Reef, Philippines; Mesoamerican Reef, Caribbean Basin, the largest coral reef in the Atlantic Ocean; the Florida Keys Reef system, North America’s only living coral barrier reef protected as the john Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park; New Caledonian Barrier Reef, New Caledonia, in the South Pacific; Red Sea Coral Reef off the coasts of Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia; Maldives- Chagos - Lakshadweep Atolls, Indian Ocean; Belize Barrier Reef, Belize, off the coast of Central America; Andros Barrier Reef, Bahamas; and Saya de Malha Banks, Indian Ocean. We want to add to the community’s storehouse of knowledge, whether it is a neighborhood matter, a larger issue or a simple curiosity. We’ll do the footwork for you. Submit your questions to wmchughes27@gmail.com

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