Coral reef discovered off South Carolina coast


Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

Alvin collects a sample of Lophelia pertusa from an extensive mound of both dead and live coral.

Citlalli Perez, Reporter

On August 23, scientists made a remarkable discovery of a vast coral reef off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.

Nearing the end of a 14-day voyage, Alvin, a deep-diving research submarine, sank about half a mile below the sea water. The expedition’s original mission was to explore uncharted canyons, gas seeps and coral ecosystems off the Atlantic coast.

It’s a humongous ecosystem that has probably been developing for at least a few hundred thousand years.

The discovery of the coral was not an easy task, for Alvin embarked on an almost eight-hour dive.

“Discovering ocean life is a great discovery because we can have more sea animals living in lots of places in the world,” said Yasmin Vizguerra (‘20).

Knowing little information of the deep sea coast from Virginia to Georgia, the coral reef is a find which shocks the oceanic fields. The Lophelia pertusa, a dominant species of the coral discovered, tend to only live by the shallower water of the ocean.

Having been discovered further in the depths leave scientists questioning the coral might be connected to some of the types of coral species, causing it to adjust to the more resiliently to the oceans rising water temperatures.

Precautions to protect the coral reef from oil and gas development must be established for the sensitive habitat of regional fisheries.  

The Trump administration is proposing an expansive offshore drilling plan that could stretch up and down the Atlantic coast. Researchers hope that by finding this coral reef will prevent any of the plans to be postponed or even canceled.

“If coral reefs are disconnected from other places and get damaged, they’re finished,” said Murray Roberts, a University of Edinburgh marine biologist and an expert on corals who was not involved in the discovery. “But if they’re connected, then there is a potential for recovery.”

The organization, Deep Search, greatly contributed to the discovery of the Lophelia pertusa and continues to help in other ongoing ocean research projects. Deep Search hopes in leading more deep-sea explorations in the years to come.

With the discovery of a new marine ecosystem of coral, Deep Search scientists will have much research and work that will need to be accomplished in the months and even years to come.