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Earth's Hidden Continent 'Zealandia' Discovered, Reveal Scientists

16 February 2017, 7:27 am EST By Samantha Dean Tech Times
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Research reveals that New Zealand and New Caledonia are a part of a continent called 'Zealandia.' The continent is nearly 4.9 million square kilometres long and is currently submerged in water.  ( GSA Today )

General knowledge says that there are seven continents on Earth namely Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America Australia and Antarctica.

However, scientists have made a startling discovery of a hidden continent named "Zealandia." The 11 geologists involved in the study stated that the southwest region of the Pacific Ocean located to the east of Australia, that contains New Zealand and New Caledonia, is actually a continent of its own.

The study has been in GSA Today and states that "Zealandia", which was once part of the long lost ancient supercontinent called Gondwana, is a 4.9 million square kilometre slab of continental crust situated Southwest of the Pacific Ocean.

The research was conducted by 11 researchers namely, Nick Mortimer, Hamish J. Campbell, Andy J. Tulloch, Peter R. King, Vaughan M. Stagpoole, Ray A. Wood, Mark S. Rattenbury, Rupert Sutherland, Chris J. Adams, Julien Collot and Maria Seton

Discovery Of 'Zealandia'

The term "Zealandia" was first coined by Bruce Luyendyk a geophysicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1995.

However, according to Luyendyk, the name was given to describe New Zealand, New Caledonia and a collection of submerged pieces and slices of crust which were a part of the Gondwana supercontinent.

The researchers went a bit further and decided to re-examine Luyendyk's idea by decoding the existing evidence under four basic criteria. The criteria are referred by the geologists to deem a slab of rock as a continent.

The four basic criteria are:

One: If the land jolts up comparatively higher from the ocean floor.

Two: The crust must contain all the three types of rocks namely metamorphic, sedimentary and igneous.

Three: The slab of crust must be thicker and less dense compared to the thickness of the surrounding ocean floor.

Four: There must be well-defined boundaries surrounding an area large enough to be considered as an continent rather than terming it a micro-continent or a fragment of any continent.

Both New Zealand and New Caledonia fulfil the first three criteria, enabling the reaserchers to coin the term "Zealandia" for the new continent.      

While at first glance the continent seems to be broken, based on the results of the study - which used satellite-based elevations and gravity maps - Zealandia indeed looks part of the unified region.

Zealandia And Its Characteristics

The study states that Zealandia is a part of former supercontinent Gondwana. Nearly 94 percent of the continent is submerged. Zealandia is also the youngest and the thinnest of all other continents on Earth.

Nearly 94 percent of Zealandia is currently submerged, which Nick Mortimer says is nothing unique.

"It is not unique in this regard: an ice-free, isostatically corrected West Antarctica would also largely be submerged," said Mortimer.

The new continent once made up approximately 5 percent of supercontinent Gondwana.

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