– It certainly isn’t every day that researchers discover a new continent, but now it has happened.
Zealandia is the name of our planet’s eighth continent discovered underwater beneath New Zealand.
The vast landmass is believed to be a piece of the ancient super-continent Gondwana.
According to a paper published by the Geological Society of America, Zealandia is five million sq km in size. It’s about two-thirds the size of the country of Australia or the same size as the Indian subcontinent.
“Its isolation from Australia and large area support its definition as a continent—Zealandia,” wrote researchers from universities in Caledonia, Australia and New Zealand.
“The identification of Zealandia as a geological continent, rather than a collection of continental islands, fragments, and slices, more correctly represents the geology of this part of Earth … [and] provides a fresh context in which to investigate processes of continental rifting, thinning, and breakup,” the authors wrote.
Zealandia is everywhere substantially elevated above the surrounding oceanic crust. The main difference with other continents is that it has much wider and deeper continental shelves than is usually the case.
It is not the first time scientists have postulated there might be a hidden continent underwater in the southwest Pacific Ocean. In 1995, American geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk gave the name Zealandia to this south-west Pacific continent for the first time. Now, researchers can finally confirm the existence of Zealandia.
It is believed that Zealandia sank between 60 to 85 million years ago, after it broke away from Gondwana, the landmass that Australia was once a part of.
Earlier this month scientists also discovered a piece of a long-lost continent under Mauritius.