Zealandia is a continent that remained hidden for over three centuries. In the year 1642, Abel Tasman, a Dutch sailor, set out on a voyage to the southern hemisphere, in search of a massive continent that he believed existed. Tasman’s search for this continent was futile, and he eventually returned home without having found it. However, in 2017, a group of geologists discovered what Tasman had been searching for: a new continent called Zealandia. Here’s everything you need to know about this enigmatic continent that has remained hidden for over three centuries.
The Discovery of Zealandia
It is also known as Te Riu-a-Mui in Mori, was discovered by a group of geologists in 2017. The continent is located in the southern Pacific Ocean and covers an area of approximately 1.89 million square miles (4.9 million square kilometres). This makes it six times larger than Madagascar, which was previously considered the eighth largest island in the world.
Zealandia’s Status as a Continent
For many years, the world’s encyclopedias, maps, and search engines had recognized only seven continents: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia. However, the discovery of Zealandia in 2017 changed that. The geologists who discovered the continent confidently declared that there are, in fact, eight continents in the world, with Zealandia being the newest and the smallest.
Despite its small size, it is unique in that it is not an island or a collection of islands, but a continuous landmass. The catch, however, is that 94 percent of the continent is underwater, with only a few islands, such as New Zealand, protruding above the water’s surface.
The Enigma of Zealandia
Despite being discovered in 2017, it remains shrouded in mystery. The continent is guarded beneath 6,560 feet (2 kilometers) of water, making it challenging to study. Moreover, since it was discovered only recently, there is still much to learn about the continent. However, what makes it even more enigmatic is the fact that it managed to stay together and not disintegrate into smaller micro-continents, despite its thinness.
Geologists’ Fascination with Zealandia
The discovery of Zealandia has opened up new avenues of research for geologists. According to a study, geologists are fascinated by the continent’s unusual tectonic setting, which is different from that of any other continent. It is a part of the Pacific Plate and is located at the boundary between the Pacific Plate and the Australian Plate. This boundary is also known as the Ring of Fire, which is known for its intense seismic activity.
Geologists are keen to understand how Zealandia managed to stay together, despite the intense seismic activity that occurs along its boundaries. One theory suggests that the continent may have been formed as a result of a long and slow process of tectonic activity that took place over millions of years. This theory is supported by the fact that Zealandia is believed to be the world’s youngest continent, having broken off from the supercontinent Gondwana only around 83 million years ago.
The Importance of Zealandia’s Study for Understanding Earth’s History
The study of Zealandia is crucial for understanding the geological history of the Earth. The continent provides new insights into the processes that have shaped the planet and how the continents have evolved over time. The study of Zealandia can also shed light on the tectonic activity that occurs at the boundaries of the Earth’s plates, and how this activity affects the formation and breakup of continents.
Zealandia’s position on the Ring of Fire makes it a unique location for studying the effects of tectonic activity. Understanding how the continent has managed to stay together despite intense seismic activity can also provide valuable information for predicting and mitigating natural disasters in the region.
Zealandia is a continent that remained hidden for over three centuries, and its discovery has opened up new avenues of research for geologists. While there is still much to learn about this enigmatic continent, one thing is certain: Zealandia has the potential to reveal a lot about the earth’s geological history and how the continents were formed. As geologists continue to study this new continent, we can expect to learn more about the secrets that lie hidden beneath its waters.