It’s like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert: Haifa University explorers discover coral reefs 700m beneath the Mediterranean Sea’s surface; will they be able to protect the reef from oil and gas exploration?
The scene of bickering between Israel and Lebanon over gas fields, and potentially harboring a giant garbage patch, the Mediterranean Sea, stunned researchers have found, has a coral reef that spans several kilometers 700 meters below the surface of the sea. Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, energy-hungry countries like Egypt are eager to exploit the sea’s oil reserves. Will scientists be able to use this new discovery as collateral against destructive fossil-fuel exploration?
Nautilus plows the deep sea
Two weeks ago Green Prophet wrote about the Nautilus’ departure from the Port of Haifa; it was the first such deep-sea expedition planned off Tel Aviv’s coast and was headed by the Haifa University’s Director of Leon Charney School of Marine Sciences, Professor Zvi Ben Avraham.
Owned by the famed explorer who discovered the Titanic in 1985, the Nautilus is equipped with state of the art equipment specifically for deep sea exploration and photography.
To their astonishment, roughly 30-40km from Tel Aviv, the researchers discovered the coral colonies.
“It was like finding Ein Gedi in the middle of the desert,” Dr. Yitzhak Makovsky, who headed the project’s control center, told the Jerusalem Post.
“We never expected to find coral reefs of such proportions there. We didn’t expect it or even dream of it,” he added.
There’s more to explore
Just over two weeks long, the survey was just one of what Dr. Makovsky believes should be several more in order to do a more thorough investigation. Also, he told the paper that as is the case with other coral reef ecosystems, this area should immediately be named a Natural Undersea Preserve.
“The Nautilus crew also discovered two shipwrecks, apparently modern fishing boats several dozens of years old, that lie on the seabed. Fish and lobsters found living in and on them were photographed hundreds of meters under the surface of the water in their natural surroundings,” according to JPost.
They also took images of the chimera monstrosa, which until 400 million years ago was a member of the shark family. A 10cm long lobster was also photographed.
More information should become available over the next few weeks as scientists sort through their findings and release images of this exciting, but vulnerable new frontier.
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image via CybersamX