Zealandia:8th continent under New Zealand

  • There is an entire, submerged and unrecognised continent that has been hiding until now, according to scientists.
  • New Zealand is sitting on top of the geological entity, most of which sits underneath the South Pacific and so can’t be seen.
  • The researchers explain that Zealandia measures five million sq km which is about two thirds of neighbouring Australia.
  • The continent – known as Zealandia – is a distinct geological entity and meets all the criteria that are satisfied by the existing seven continents.
  • It is elevated above the area that surrounds it, has its own distinctive geology, the area that it takes up is well defined.
  • It also has a crust thicker than the regular ocean floor – just like the seven masses we currently class as continents.
  • The new continent is 94% under water, according to the new paper.
  • It is made up of three major landmasses: New Zealand’s north and south islands, and New Caledonia to the north.
  • Scientists said that by classifying it as a continent they would be able to study how they are formed and break up and cohesion of the earth’s crust.
  • Finding data on the continent has been difficult because so much of it is beneath the sea.

    Earth’s Crust: Know More

  • The crust of the Earth is composed of a great variety of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. The crust is underlain by the mantle.
  • The upper part of the mantle is composed mostly of peridotite, a rock denser than rocks common in the overlying crust.
  • The boundary between the crust and mantle is conventionally placed at the Mohorovicic discontinuity. This is a boundary defined by a contrast in seismic velocity.
  • The crust occupies less than 1% of Earth’s volume.

Here are a few things you must know about Zealandia:

  1.  In 1995, American geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk gave the name Zealandia to this south-west Pacific continent for the first time.
  2. New Zealand geologist Nick Mortimer, along with other scientists, published a paper in the Geological Society of America’s Journal today, calling Zealandia “distinct enough to constitute a separate continent”.
  3. The GSA report says that Zealandia is around five million sq km in size. That would be about the same size as the Indian subcontinent.
  4. Almost 94 per cent of Zealandia is underwater in the Pacific Ocean.
  5. It encircles New Zealand, New Caledonia, Norfolk Island, the Lord Howe Island group, and also the Elizabeth and Middleton reefs.
  6. As it so happens, New Zealand’s North and South Islands, and New Caledonia are actually parts of Zealandia. These are the few bits of the landmasses that remains out of water.
  7. Despite being mostly underwater, Zealandia meets all the criteria to be qualified as a continent: it is elevated above the surrounding area, has distinctive geology, well-defined area, crust thicker than the usual ocean floor, etc.
  8. It is believed that Zealandia sank some time between 60 to 85 million years ago, after it broke away from Gondwana, the landmass that Australia was once a part of.
  9. Geologists have been researching and pitching for Zealandia to be recognised as an independent continent for over 20 years now.
  10. If approved, Zealandia will become the world’s seventh and smallest continent, joining the crew of Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, and Australia.

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