Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Dublin: 14°C Friday 19 August 2022
Advertisement

Welcome to Zealandia: Scientists reveal 'Earth's hidden continent'

They want the landmass recognised as a continent.

New Zealand is part of the 6% of Zealandia that's above water.
New Zealand is part of the 6% of Zealandia that's above water.
Image: Shutterstock

NEW ZEALAND SITS atop a previously unknown continent — mostly submerged beneath the South Pacific — that should be recognised with the name Zealandia, scientists have said.

Researchers said Zealandia was a distinct geological entity and met all the criteria applied to Earth’s seven other continents — elevation above the surrounding area, distinctive geology, a well-defined area and a crust much thicker than that found on the ocean floor.

In a paper published in the Geological Society of America’s Journal, GSA Today, they said Zealandia measured five million square kilometres and was 94% underwater.

The paper’s authors said it had only three major landmasses, New Zealand’s North and South Islands to the south, and New Caledonia to the north.

The scientists, mostly from the official New Zealand research body GNS Science, said Zealandia was once part of the Gondwana super-continent but broke away about 100 million years ago.

“The scientific value of classifying Zealandia as a continent is much more than just an extra name on a list,” they wrote.

That a continent can be so submerged yet unfragmented makes it (useful)… in exploring the cohesion and breakup of continental crust.

Lead author Nick Mortimer said scientists have been gathering data to make the case for Zealandia for more than 20 years.

But their efforts had been frustrated because most of it was hidden beneath the waves.

“If we could pull the plug on the oceans, it would be clear to everybody that we have mountain chains and a big, high-standing continent,” he told TVNZ.

Making a difference

A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article.

Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can make sure we can keep reliable, meaningful news open to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.

While there is no scientific body that formally recognises continents, Mortimer said he wanted Zealandia to become an accepted part of how the Earth is viewed.

“What we hope is that Zealandia will appear on world maps, in schools, everywhere,” he said.

“I think the revelation of a new continent is pretty exciting.”

© – AFP 2017

Read: Tourists warned to stay away after Japan’s biggest volcano blows its top >

PHOTOS: Welcome to Sealand, the bizarre ‘micronation’ off the coast of England >

About the author:

AFP

Read next:

COMMENTS (43)