Science

This Is Zealandia, the Underwater Continent upon Which New Zealand Sits

By Charles Omedo , Feb 17, 2017 12:55 AM EST
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A team of scientists from the University of Sydney, Victoria University, the Service Geologique de Nouvelle Caledonie, and the GNS Science Research Institute in New Zealand has published a study identifying an eight continent, called Zealandia. The research team published their findings in GSA Today - a journal of The Geological Society of America. The title of the study is Zealandia: Earth's Hidden Continent.

The researchers were apt to refer to Zealandia as Earth's hidden continent because 94% of the newly identified continent is submerged under the Pacific Ocean, and the visible part is the known countries of New Zealand and New Caledonia. The name "Zealandia" was first coined in 1995 by Bruce Luyendyk, a geophycisist, as referring to New Zealand, the Chatham Rise, Lord Howe Rise and Campbell Plateau. Meanwhile, scientists believe Zealandia broke away from Australia and became submerged in water 60-80 million years ago.

Four factors that justify Zealandia as a continent of its own

According to the published study and reported by Tech Times, a continent justifies to be regarded as such when it fulfills four basic conditions - and both New Zealand and New Caledonia which are part of Zealandia fulfill three of these. The first is that land mass must emerge and stand alone from the ocean floor. The second is that visible land mass must contain the three major types of known rocks, namely metamorphic rock, sedimentary rock and igneous rock. The third condition is that the crust of the emerged land mass must be thicker and less dense than that of the ocean floor around it. And the fourth is that it must not be a micro-continent of a piece of another continent, but must be big enough with surrounding land boundaries of its own.

Authors justifies naming Zealandia the eight continent

Identifying Zealandia as a continent makes it the eight continent, apart from the seven popularly known continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, North America, South America, Antarctica, and Europe. The authors of the study boast that they wouldn't have named Zealandia as a continent 10 years ago due to insufficient data, but today they have all the data they need with the justified confidence to present their findings to the world, The Sydney Morning Herald wrote. Then they added that Zealandia has a land mass of 4.9 million square kilometers, and surrounded by geologic and geographic limits that are well-defined, earning it to the rights to be considered a continent.

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