Zealandia – A Hidden Southern Continent Discovered After 375 Years
Where is Zealandia Located?
After nearly four centuries, geoscientists have uncovered a lost continent that was hiding in plain sight. A small team of geologists and seismologists has created a refined map of the continent Zealandia, also known as Te Riu-a-Maui. The researchers compiled data from rock samples dredged from the seafloor to make the discovery, according to a report published in Tectonics journal.
Zealandia – A Vast Underwater Continent In The South Pacific
According to a BBC report, Zealandia is a massive continent spanning 4.9 million square kilometers, making it about six times the size of Madagascar. The scientists have confirmed there are 8 continents on Earth, with Zealandia being the smallest, thinnest and youngest.
The new southern continent is 94% underwater, with only a few islands peeking above the surface like New Zealand. “This is an example of how something very obvious can take a while to uncover,” said Andy Tulloch, a geologist at New Zealand’s GNS Science institute involved in the discovery.
Studying Rocks And Sediments To Uncover A Hidden Continent
Experts say Zealandia has always been tricky to analyze since most of it is submerged under the ocean. Scientists are now inspecting rock and sediment samples brought up from the seafloor, primarily from drilling sites. Additional samples came from nearby islands.
An analysis published in Phys.org showed rock patterns in West Antarctica indicating a subduction zone near New Zealand’s Campbell Plateau. However, researchers did not find magnetic anomalies there, debunking theories around a strike-slip in the Campbell Fault.
The revised map spotlights the magmatic arc axis of Zealandia and other major geological characteristics.
Zealandia – Once Part Of The Ancient Supercontinent Gondwana
Around 550 million years ago, Zealandia was part of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, comprising all southern hemisphere landmasses. Tectonic plate movements eventually broke Gondwana apart, leaving Zealandia detached and mostly submerged.
The research provides conclusive evidence that Zealandia is a distinct continent and sheds light on its formation and breakup from Gondwana. The continent’s isolation and submersion make it a unique case study for understanding continental evolution.