World Data Center for Geophysics & Marine Geology / National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA
Under the waters of the Pacific, at a depth of almost 1,000 meters is the eighth continent on the planet, scientists have confirmed.
Experts said the sunken land mass, called Zealandia, would have been an entire continent, but this has now been confirmed, and experts have laid the groundwork for an interactive map through which the continent can be analyzed in detail. Business Insider.
Researchers at GNS Science in New Zealand have announced that they have mapped the shape and size of the continent in detail with unprecedented accuracy. They placed the maps on a interactive website, so that users can explore it.
“We created these maps to provide an accurate, complete and up-to-date picture, better than before.”, said Nick Mortimer, who coordinated the project.
The maps reveal new information about how Zealandia formed before being submerged several million years ago.
Its surface is almost five million square kilometers, about half the size of Australia, but only 6% of the continent is above water level. This area is represented by the northern and southern islands of New Zealand and New Caledonia.
The second map made by GNS scientists reveals the types of crust that make up the underwater continent, how old the crust is and the major defects.
The continental crust is the oldest and thickest crust on Earth, forming land masses. It is presented in red, orange, yellow and brown. The oceanic crust, which is generally younger, is blue. The red triangles show where the volcanoes are.
The map is part of a global initiative to map the entire ocean floor of the planet by 2030.
The concept of “Zealandia” originally referred to New Zealand
The concept of Zealandia is 25 years old. Geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk coined the term in 1995.
Luyendyk said he never intended the term to describe a new continent. Rather, the name originally referred to New Zealand and a collection of sunken crust pieces that broke up the old Gondwana supercontinent about 85 million years ago.
“The reason I came with this term is for convenience. They are pieces of the same thing when you look at Gondwana. So I thought, “Why do you keep calling this collection of pieces different?”, said Luyendyk.
Gondwana was formed when the ancient supercontinent of the Earth, Pangea, split into two fragments. Northern Laurasia became Europe, Asia and North America. Southern Gondwana dispersed to form modern Africa, Antarctica, South America and Australia.
Geological forces continued to rearrange these land masses, and Zealandia was submerged in waves about 50 million years after Gondwana broke.
Zealand meets all the conditions to be called a continent
Until 2017, Zealandia was classified as a “microcontinent”, like the island of Madagascar. But, according to Mortimer, Zealandia meets all the conditions to be called a continent: it has clearly defined boundaries, covers an area of more than one million square kilometers, is raised above the surrounding oceanic crust and has a thicker continental crust than that oceanic crust. .
Therefore, these new maps provide further evidence that the underwater mass should be considered the eighth continent, Mortimer added.
“If we could eliminate the world‘s oceans, it would be quite clear that Zealandia stands out. If it weren’t for the level of the ocean, a long time ago we would have recognized Zealand for what it was, a continent. “, he said.