The continent Zealandia

A scientific study makes a claim that a chunk of continental shelf that is 94% submerged, with only New Zealand and New Caledonia being the only land masses currently above sea level, should be classified as a continent. The area is about two thirds of the size of Australia.

BBC: Zealandia: Is there an eighth continent under New Zealand?

Say hello to Zealandia, a huge landmass almost entirely submerged in the southwest Pacific.

It’s not a complete stranger, you might have heard of its highest mountains, the only bits showing above water: New Zealand.

Scientists say it qualifies as a continent and have now made a renewed push for it to be recognised as such.

In a paper published in the Geological Society of America’s Journal,researchers explain that Zealandia measures five million sq km (1.9m sq miles) which is about two thirds of neighbouring Australia.

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There is no official way of defining what a continent is.

You might think being above water is crucial to making the cut as a continent, but the researchers looked at a different set of criteria, all of which are met by the new kid in town.

  • elevation above the surrounding area
  • distinctive geology
  • a well-defined area
  • a crust thicker than the regular ocean floor

Abstract from Geological Society of America:

A 4.9 Mkm2 region of the southwest Pacific Ocean is made up of continental crust. The region has elevated bathymetry relative to surrounding oceanic crust, diverse and silica-rich rocks, and relatively thick and low-velocity crustal structure. Its isolation from Australia and large area support its definition as a continent—Zealandia.

Zealandia was formerly part of Gondwana. Today it is 94% submerged, mainly as a result of widespread Late Cretaceous crustal thinning preceding supercontinent breakup and consequent isostatic balance.

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. Zealandia provides a fresh context in which to investigate processes of continental rifting, thinning, and breakup.

Full report (PDF): Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent

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4 Comments

  1. Brown

     /  February 18, 2017

    If its not above water what earthy use is such a claim? It really sounds like a my cock is bigger argument given half of practical NZ is on the Pacific plate and the rest on the Australian plate.

  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  February 19, 2017

    We didn’t make the claim.

  3. I think the claim is scientific based on studies by Scientists. No one should be questioning this since it is backed by evidence and empirical studies.

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