Earth Has A Continent Called Zealandia That’s Been Hiding In Plain Sight

Planet Earth from spacePexels

According to geologists, Earth has another continent called Zealandia which has been hiding in plain sight.

At school we were always taught Earth is made up of seven continents – Africa, Asia, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.

However, according to some recent research, there’s actually another one known as Zealandia which is as large as India.

continent ZealandiaWikipedia

Analysing satellite data and rock samples, geologists concluded there’s another continent, Zealandia, which has been hiding under our noses for thousands of years.

Because geologists group Europe and Asia into one big supercontinent called Eurasia, they consider there to be six continents rather than the seven we’re taught at school.

The discovery of Zealandia therefore means we have a total of seven continents, which could massively affect the economy and geopolitics.

The study claims New Zealand and New Caledonia aren’t just island chains but instead, are both a part of a continent which is distinct from Australia.

Publishing their work in GSA Today, the 11 researchers behind the findings wrote how it isn’t exactly a new discovery:

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.

Since it was first proposed by Luyendyk in 1995, the use of the name ‘Zealandia’ for a southwest Pacific continent has had moderate uptake. However, it is still not well known to the broad international science community.

They continued:

New Zealand and New Caledonia are large, isolated islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean. They have never been regarded as part of the Australian continent, although the geographic term Australasia often is used for the collective land and islands of the southwest Pacific region.

Zealandia illustrates that the large and the obvious in natural science can be overlooked. Based on various lines of geological and geophysical evidence, particularly those accumulated in the last two decades, we argue that Zealandia is not a collection of partly submerged continental fragments but is a coherent 4.9 Mkm2 continent.

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

Classifying Zealandia as a continent though isn’t as simple as adding an extra name onto the list due to the implications it can have on both science and politics.

It sounds like these will have to be addressed soon, as Bruce Luyendyk, a geophysicist who wasn’t involved in the study, claims geologists will accept the team’s conclusions.

He told Business Insider:

These people here are A-list Earth scientists. I think they’ve put together a solid collection of evidence that’s really thorough. I don’t see that there’s going to be a lot of pushback, except maybe around the edges.

The economic implications are clear and come into play: What’s part of New Zealand, and what’s not part of New Zealand?

If Zealandia is officially classed as a continent, it will be interesting to see what this means for the rest of the world.

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