In early 2017, scientist declared a huge, submerged landmass a hidden continent. However, some part of this hidden continent are not so secret, as its highest mountain peaks are what we know as New Zealand. Therefore, scientists fittingly named the hidden continent Zealandia.
Zealandia is believed to have broken away from Australia 60-85 million years ago and became almost completely submerged 23 million years ago.
Zealandia measures five million square kilometers (1.9m sq miles). Researchers say the landmass is 94% underwater. The last 6% makes up New Zealand’s North and South Islands and New Caledonia. Since 1995, scientists have been trying to argue that Zealandia should be considered a continent. However, the idea was widely rejected. Today, due to new information scientists are now agreeing with the 90s suggestion. Experts say the mass is considered a continent because it fulfills these qualities: elevation above the surrounding area, distinctive geology, a well-defined area, and a crust thicker than the regular ocean floor.
In the beginning of August 2017, scientists began further research on the continent. Geologists set out for drilling expeditions. The scientists will drill at 6 sites over two months, before heading to Tasmania to study their findings.
According to National Geographic, study of the submerged continent could be crucial to understanding prehistoric eras. “Underwater Zealandia is of value to science as well as business. During glacial periods, sea levels fell, and more of Zealandia was above water,” National Geographic reports. “Zealandia’s submerged fossils provide valuable clues to life during those time periods.” Experts on the research team also believe these studies will give great insight into how plate subduction initiates.
Zealandia is believed to be part of the ancient super-continent Gondwanda (diagram below). Gondwanda was once made up of Australia and most of the southern hemisphere. The super-continent is believed to have split close to 180 million years ago.
In early 2017, scientists believe they found another submerged continent below the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. This submerged land mass was dubbed Maurita. No extensive studies on Maurita have been completed yet.