Earth has a hidden continent


Though he wasn't part of the research team that worked on the GNC study that proves there's another continent on Earth besides the ones we already know, he vouched for the abilities of the scientists who diligently worked on the study.

If you thought that New Zealand was just a couple scrappy islands mucking around at a comfortable distance from Antarctica then prepare to expand your conception of it to an entire continent.

At 4.9-million square kilometers, or almost 1.9-million square miles, it's bigger than all of India.

As geologists count Europe and Asia as one giant continent called "Eurasia", the new addition of Zealandia brings the total number of official geologic continents to seven.

While most of it is thinner than the 30-46km typical of most continents, it is everywhere thicker than the crust of the ocean basins, which is around 7km.

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"Zealandia provides a fresh context in which to investigate processes of continental rifting, thinning, and breakup".

Zealandia was once part of Gondwana, the ancient supercontinent that merged with Laurasia around 335 million years ago to form the singular supercontinent Pangea, the study states.

By gathering satellite data and rock samples, among many other things, 11 researchers now have conclusive evidence that they found a new continent on Earth aptly named "Zealandia".

"This is not a sudden discovery but a gradual realisation; as recently as 10 years ago we would not have had the accumulated data or confidence in interpretation to write this paper", the study's authors wrote. 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.

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

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The bits that aren't waterlogged are commonly referred to as New Zealand and New Caledonia.

The team says it should be considered a geological continent, rather than the previously-held theory that it was a collection of continental islands and fragments.

Zealandia once made up about 5 per cent of the area of Gondwana, from which it started to separate as a ribbon continent about 4000 kilometres long, the paper says.

"Currently used conventions and definitions of continental crust, continents, and microcontinents require no modification to accommodate Zealandia".

"The economic implications are clear and come into play: What's part of New Zealand and what's not part of New Zealand?" he says.

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An elevation map of Zealandia and nearby Australia.