A massive undersea landslide has been discovered on the Great Barrier Reef

Gloria Knolls slide. Image: www.deepreef.org

A massive undersea landslide, about 30 times the volume of Uluru, has been found on the Great Barrier Reef.

The ancient remains, known as the Gloria Knolls Slide, were discovered 75 kilometres off the north Queensland coast by scientists on the research ship Southern Surveyor.

A debris field of large blocks, or knolls, and numerous smaller blocks, is scattered over 30 kilometres from the main landslide remains, into the Queensland Trough, to a depth of 1350 metres.

“The oldest fossil corals recovered off the top of the knoll were 302,000 years old — which means the landslide event that caused these knolls must be older,” says researcher Dr Angel Puga-Bernabéu, a former postdoctoral researcher from the University of Sydney and now with the University of Granada.

Westerly view of the Gloria Knolls. Image: www.deepreef.org

A sudden under-sea mass failure like this one could have create a tsunami wave about 27 metres high.

Dr Robin Beaman from James Cook University says the cluster of knolls was discovered while mapping the deep 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 meters high and 3 km long,” says Dr Beaman.

The research was a collaborative effort between James Cook University, University of Sydney, University of Granada, University of Edinburgh and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

The findings are published in the journal Marine Geology.

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