As the legends have it, there was an 8th continent known as Atlantis. This mysterious continent was said to have sunk a long time ago… Every elementary school student now knows that there are seven continents. Or are there? After more than 20 years of investigation, researchers say there is now an eighth continent that been hiding in plain sight for AGES: Zealandia.
The ‘lost continent’ is reported to be 1.9 million square miles- about two-thirds the size of Australia- but is 94% underwater (South Pacific ocean), so we can all be excused for not noticing it sooner. Only three segments of Zealandia peek above the ocean: New Caledonia and the North and South islands of New Zealand.
If this sensational discovery, which is being debated by the scientific community, is confirmed- the name “Zealandia” may be seen on world maps and even school books in the near future.
The researchers say that Zealandia checks all the boxes of being recognized as a separate continent in its own right, as it meets all the 4 criteria applied to each of the seven other continents: It has obvious boundaries and a wide range of geology, its crust is thicker than that of the ocean floor, and it has a higher elevation than the areas around it. They point out that classifying Zealandia as a continent would not only more accurately reflect the situation, but it could potentially teach us more about how continents move and change.
“If we could pull the plug on the oceans, it would be clear to everybody that we have… a big, high-standing continent,” lead author, Nick Mortimer, states.
Zealandia is believed to have broken away from Australia about 100 million years ago, according to geologists, and sank between 60-85 million years ago. A six-year study by the GNS Science research institute in New Zealand has revealed that there could be tens of billions of dollars worth of fossil fuels located off-shore in the region!
The term Zealandia was coined by geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk in 1995, at which time it was believed to possess three of the four necessary qualities required for continent status.
A recent discovery using satellite technology and gravity maps of the sea floor have revealed that Zealandia is a large unified area, fulfilling all four requirements.