Natural: Part of the fossilised reef complex on a beach of Ly Son Island, off the coast of Quang Ngai province. (Photo courtesy of Nguyen Xuan Nam)

Quang Ngai (VNA)
- Experts from the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources have found a unique complex of fossilised coral – believed to date from 4,000 to 6,000 years ago – on the coast of Ly Son Island, 30km off Quang Ngai province mainland.

Dr Nguyen Xuan Nam from the institute said that a group of researchers and scientists found the population of palaeontological coral reefs over an area of 20,000sq.m extending 400 metres along the coast, northeast of the island.

The coral reef complex, which was named Coi Xay (a manual rice mill seen in rural areas in the old days) coral, includes a heap of coral blocks scattered on the beach.

“It’s an amazing discovery. We haven’t found such a coral reef complex in Vietnam before. It’s like manual rice mills dotted along the beach,” Nam said.

“The discovery of this strange coral population helps explain the palaeontological environment during the Flandrian transgression, creating an attraction for tourists, researchers and paleontologists,” he said.

Nam said the discovery was part of initial research to recognise Ly Son Island as a global geo-park.

He warned the province should enact special protection for the coral reef complex, as well as the islands, to prevent them being destroyed by human activities and overloaded with tourism and construction.

He said some residents did not know the importance of the reefs, and they even took parts of the coral to use in farming.

Samples of the coral reefs have been sent for examination at international laboratories to establish their age and structure as well as scientific name.

In response to a warning by scientists from the institute, the central province people’s committee released an urgent decision to protect the population of newly found coral reefs, banning all construction and approaches or human activities in the area.

According to archaeologists, Ly Son Island is a dormant volcano. The terrain of the island was created from eruptions 25 to 30 million years ago, leaving landscapes with rocks, caves, cliffs, rock arches and a lake.

The island has abundant relics related to the Sa Huynh, Champa and Dai Viet (or Great Viet) cultures that existed on the island for thousands of years, according to Dr Pham Quoc Quan, a member of the National Heritage Council. 

Quan said ceramic fragments and other antiquities from archaeological excavations revealed the first community living on the island belonged to the Sa Huynh culture between 2,500 and 3,000 years ago,

Geologist Vu Cao Minh warned that exploitation of beach sand and coral reefs for farming garlic and onions could result in damage to coral reefs around the island, while the boom in hospitality services could lead to a mass collapse of the underground water structure of the island.

Scientists also warned the province about a proposal to develop a hotel and resort complex because it would damage the heritage of the island.   

The islands and a vast coastal area of Binh Son district are being considered as a site for a Global Geo-Park for approval by UNESCO.

The island, known as the "King of Garlic" in Vietnam, is a tranquil destination with 21,000 inhabitants, most of whom make their living from farming garlic and spring onions and fishing.-VNA