The remnants of a massive undersea landslide, with a volume approximately 30 times that of Uluru, have been discovered on the Great Barrier Reef.
James Cook University scientists say a sudden ‘mass failure’ on this scale could produce a tsunami about 27 metres high, although it would be dampened by the presence of coral reefs.
JCU’s Dr Robin Beaman said the remains of the slip, known as the Gloria Knolls Slide, were discovered 75 kilometres off the north Queensland coast near the town of Innisfail.
“This is all that remains after a massive collapse of sediment of about 32 cubic kilometres’ volume more than 300,000 years ago,” he said.
The scientists said one-third of the Great Barrier Reef lies beyond the seaward edge of the shallower reefs, and the discovery of this prominent undersea landslide and its vast debris reveals a far more complex landscape than previously known.
Considerably more seabed mapping and sampling is needed to fully assess the tsunami hazard to the Queensland coast posed by these types of underwater landslides.
This research is a collaborative effort between James Cook University, University of Sydney, University of Granada, University of Edinburgh and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.
Find out more about the Great Barrier Reef landslide here. Story credit: James Cook University newsroom.
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