An underwater robot has revealed the stunning beauty of the coral and marine life of Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park in Victoria.
Scientists say the new footage, which was captured in water as deep as 95 metres, shows marine communities which can rival and, in some cases eclipse, the beauty of the world-famous Great Barrier Reef.
The Age newspaper says the robot revealed beautiful corals, stunning sponge gardens, vast numbers of fish and “needles of rock” that soared towards the surface of the water.
It is hoped that the new footage from the marine park –which is less than 230 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD – will both educate Australians about the hidden beauty on their own doorstep, and help Parks Victoria manage the park.
Marine biologist, Matt Edmunds, said in terms of its ecological and national significance, the Wilsons Promontory marine park could ‘easily be listed’ as a site of high conservation importance.
“The diversity there, per square metre, is as high or higher as what you would see on any coral reef,” he told the Age. “And it makes it a biodiversity hot-spot in Australia and in the world.”
Dr Edmunds, who was one of the pilots who steered the robot on its three days of touring while wearing virtual-reality goggles, said the scientists were simply ‘blown away’ by what they discovered.
“We just found these amazing communities with really, really high biodiversity structures that we’ve never seen before, these aggregations of fish we’ve never seen before. And really pretty, really beautiful as well so aesthetically amazing,” he said. “So as good as, or better than stuff I’ve seen on the Great Barrier Reef, or out in the Coral Sea.”