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Scientists Discover Zealandia, a Lost Continent Hiding In Plain Sight For Ages

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For most of our lives, we were taught that the world has seven continents: Africa, Asia, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. Later on, as National Geographic noted, “Some geographers list only six continents, combining Europe and Asia into “Eurasia.'” Well, guess what? It looks like the Earth has one more continent and it’s called Zealandia.

It’s worth noting that Zealandia didn’t just materialize overnight. In fact, the continent has just been hidden. According to the paper published in GSA Today — the journal of the Geological Society of America — the newly discovered land mass is 1.74 million square miles in size. However, 94 percent of it is submerged in the ocean.

Our point of reference for Zealandia is New Zealand.

Source: GSA Today

Then again, it turns out that the highest points of Zealandia protrudes above the ocean surface in the form of New Zealand and New Caledonia.

In any case, the discovery of Zealandia was a long process. It most probably began in the 1960s, when New Zealand’s started its offshore drilling efforts.

Offshore oil drilling actually led to Zealandia's discovery.

Indeed, with each drilling expedition, oil prospectors and geologists alike could not help but highlight some geologic facts. They all confirmed that there may be larger tracts of continental crust hidden deep below the ocean near New Zealand and New Caledonia.

Where exactly is Zealandia? Here's your answer.

Source: GSA Today

Over the years, the drilling continued. Satellite imagery and seismic scans were also used to probe the area. Eventually, it was confirmed that there was a submerged land mass.

Eventually, the researchers consolidated the findings of all the studies done in the area. Subsequently, they determined if the land mass fulfills the four factors needed for it to be classified as a continent.

We literally have a whole new world!

The paper, “Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent,” lists the four criteria in determining if a land mass is a continent:

  1. The land should protrude at a relatively high from the ocean floor.
  2. It should have three types of rocks: igneous (spewed by volcanoes), metamorphic (altered by heat/pressure), and sedimentary (made by erosion).
  3. It should have a much thicker crust compared to the one on the ocean floor.
  4. Moreover, it should have “well-defined limits around a large enough area.”
We wonder if the world map will be updated soon.

Source: GSA Today

Overall, this discovery just goes to show that there are so many more things to discover about the world we live in. Evidently, we haven’t really explored every inch of our world.

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