The original, exposed Apostles (Photo: Diceman~commonswiki)

Off the coast of Victoria, Australia, stand eight giant columns of limestone. Once they were part of a long coastline of limestone cliffs, but over time, as the rock eroded, these columns were left standing tall—as high as 130 feet—in the ocean.

They’re called the Apostles, and there used to be more of them: four of the original 12 have collapsed into the ocean, the last in 2005. But now a team of scientists has found five new apostles to add to the collection.

Why had no one seen these giant columns of limestone before? They’re underwater.

A scan of the drowned Apostles (Image: Rhiannon Bezore)

These five new “Drowned Apostles” were found by a Ph.D student, Rhiannon Bezore, while she was examining sonar data of the Victoria coastline. No other underwater limestone columns have ever been found: features like these usually eroded in the faces of rising sea levels. But in this case, it seems possible that the sea levels rose so quickly, these features did not have time to erode.

Compared to the original Apostles, these are rather stubby—they’re about 20 to 30 feet tall. Unlike the exposed Apostles, these have been flattened on top. They were likely once taller, but erosion did erase some of the stone.

They have survived, though. The scientists estimate they have been standing there for 60,000 years, creating a home for coral and fish and simply lasting, on and on, against the odds.

Bonus finds: Fossil of the oldest pine tree, Tupac’s notebooks

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