University College Cork scientists have discovered a 1.8-mile-deep canyon, the Porcupine Bank Canyon, on the Atlantic Ocean floor just off the coast at Dingle, County Kerry.

A team of scientists from across the world, led by researchers from University College Cork (UCC) discovered the canyon 198.8 miles west of Dingle town, in County Kerry. They told the canyon is deep enough that you could stack ten Eiffel Towers inside and the area of the find equates to 1118.468 miles squared, the same size as the island of Malta.

The scientist mapped the newly discovered canyon on board Irish ship, RV Celtic Explorer, over two weeks.

Led by Dr Aaron Lim of UCC’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES), used the Marine Institute’s Holland 1 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) the team believes the new discovery will aid in understanding more about the transportation of carbon to the deep ocean.

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An image, including an Effiel Tower for scale, to show how deep the Porcupine Bank Canyon is.

An image, including an Effiel Tower for scale, to show how deep the Porcupine Bank Canyon is.

They explained that the excess in carbon (CO2) is being absorbed by the ocean floor and that canyons pump this into the deep ocean.

Lim told “This is a vast submarine canyon system, with near-vertical 700m cliff in places and going as deep as 3000m.”

He added, “So far from land, this canyon is a natural laboratory from which we feel the pulse of the changing Atlantic.”

The Porcupine Bank Canyon is full of cold-water corals forming reefs and mounds. These create a rim on the lip of the canyon which is 30 meters tall and 17.3 miles long. The reefs eventually break off and slide down the canyon. They then form an accumulation of coral rubble deeper within the canyon. With the use of equipment, the scientists were able to discover a significant build-up of coral debris.

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Cold-water Coral discovered off Kerry coast by @MarineInst aboard #RVCelticExplorer @uccbees

— Ventry Weather (@ventryweather) June 24, 2015

Professor Andy Wheeler, School of BEES, UCC, and the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences (iCRAG) said “This is all about transporting carbon stored cold water corals into the deep. The corals get their carbon from dead plankton raining down from the ocean surface so ultimately from our atmosphere.”

He added, “Increasing CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere are causing our extreme weather; oceans absorb this CO2 and canyons are a rapid route for pumping it into the deep ocean where it is safely stored away.”

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