Zealandia: World’s 8th Continent Is 5 Million Square Kilometer Big!
Scientists say they have identified a new continent called ‘Zealandia’ hidden in the Pacific Ocean and attached to New Zealand, according to a new report.
A team of 11 geologists submitted their findings in a paper known as “Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent” in Geological Society of America, and claimed Zealandia to be recognised as the world’s eighth continent in its own right.
“Based on various lines of geological and geophysical evidence, particularly those accumulated in the last two decades, we argue that Zealandia is not a collection of partly submerged continental fragments but is a coherent 4.9 Mkm2 continent,” the study says.
Zealandia is a 4.9 million-square-kilometre expanse of continental crust that’s 94% underwater, with only New Zealand and New Caledonia sitting above the ocean’s surface. This is mostly as a result of crustal thinning before the super continental break-up,which can be seen using upgraded satellite-based elevation and gravity map technology.
The continent is a 3 million-square-mile region in the southwest Pacific Ocean. The islands are connected by “submerged continental crust across a large area of Earth’s surface,” the authors of the study wrote. This would be the youngest, thinnest and most submerged continent on the planet.
Currently, there are six recognised continents geographically: Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Eurasia, North America, and South America. Eurasia is the geographical landmass that includes Europe and Asia. Therefore, the new addition of Zealandia brings the total number of official geologic continents to seven.
Typically, Zealandia’s crust thickness ranges from 10 to 30km (6 to 19 miles) and is roughly the size of India. It’s believed to have broken off from Antarctica about 100 million years ago, and then again from Australia about 80 million years ago.
“This is not a sudden discovery but a gradual realization; as recently as 10 years ago we would not have had the accumulated data or confidence in interpretation to write this paper,” the researchers wrote.
“Zealandia illustrates that the large and the obvious in natural science can be overlooked,” reads the journal article. “The scientific value of classifying Zealandia as a continent is much more than just an extra name on a list. That a continent can be so submerged yet unfragmented makes it a useful and thought-provoking geodynamic end member in exploring the cohesion and breakup of continental crust.”