New maps reveal what the lost continent of Zealandia looks like
Published : Tuesday, 30 June, 2020 at 11:45 AM Count : 265
In the deep South Pacific ocean lies a lost continent that, up until a few years ago, was undiscovered by man. You’ve likely been taught that there are 7 continents on Earth. However, now there is evidence for an eighth continent hidden mostly underwater.
The submerged continent of Zealandia broke away from the supercontinent Gondwanaland about 80 million years ago. For the past 23 million years the massive continent has been nearly completely submerged. In total, the continent is 1.9 million square miles and is about half the size of Australia.
New research suggests that the landmass fits all the criteria for a continental mass and would have been labeled as such if it weren’t submerged underwater.
A recent project by the New Zealand research group GNS Science released a fantastic interactive platform to explore and examine different layers of information and imagery over Zealandia.
About 94 percent of Zealandia is underwater with the only above water landmasses making up a few Pacific islands including New Zealand. With the new maps published by GNS Science, anyone can add and remove layers such as topography, bathymetry, magnetics, seismic surveys, etc. over a terrain or Google Earth imagery.
The figure above shows land masses in green and the entire continent of Zealandia in grey. You can see that it covers New Zealand and expands north and south. Even though the continent is submerged, the geology is much closer to continental crust than oceanic crust.
If the entire continent were above water New Zealand would be about half the size of Australia.
The above figure shows a bathymetric map of Zealandia. Bathymetric maps are similar to topographic maps but for elevation of land under water. You can see the outline of New Zealand and while that is above water you can see the entire continent (pale yellow) is significantly higher than the surrounding oceanic crust (light/dark blue).
With the new maps presented by GNS Science, the general public and other scientists can examine the lost continent, learn more about how it was formed, and what the ocean floor looks like around the South Pacific Ocean.