Zealandia – The Eighth Continent

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It is time we unlearned what we were taught in the Geography lessons. We were told that there are only seven continents. Well, in a world full of wonders, there seems to be the 8th continent as well! The submerged eighth continent, Zealandia, lies to the east of Australia, beneath New Zealand. Zealandia is a 4.9 million km2 region in the southwest Pacific Ocean. It is a mass of continental crust that sided after breaking-off about 80 million years ago from Gondwanaland before splitting from Antarctica about 100 million years ago. Who discovered Zealandia? Scientists gradually discovered Zealandia over the past two decades. In 1995, American geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk coined the name Zealandia. It is also known as the New Zealand continent or Tasmantis. The underwater section of Zealandia is believed to have detached from the continent of Australia and sank 60 to 85 million years ago.

 

Zealandia is the world’s largest microcontinent, and it is more than twice the size of the next-largest microcontinent. The name microcontinent may give an impression of small size but Zealandia is more than half the size of the Australian continent. You won’t find it on conventional maps though as 95% of its land is submerged deep beneath the Pacific Ocean. Most of the remaining terrestrial landforms two large islands of New Zealand- the North Island and the South Island. New Caledonia, France, makes up the Northern tip of Zealandia. The Stewart Island of New Zealand and many smaller islets are also a part of Zealandia. The current state of Zealandia Geologists from New Zealand, New Caledonia and Australia considered the size and other geological conditions such as crustal thickness and density and concluded that Zealandia fulfills all the requirements to be considered a continent, rather than a microcontinent or continental fragment.

 

In early 2020, a group of scientists used a fresh satellite along with mapping data. They used the data to state the fact that Zealandia is not just a collection of submerged continental fragments but a unified landmass. And hence, it should be given the status of a continent. The article was published in a journal in the Geological Society of America and was widely accepted. However, it is still considered to be a microcontinent and hasn’t been given the continent status yet. The microcontinent supports substantial inshore fisheries and contains gas fields, of which the largest known is New Zealand’s Maui gas field, near Taranaki. It is also a source of mineral resources such as iron sands, volcanic massive sulfides and ferromanganese nodule deposits.

 

 

 

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