What if New Zealand and New Caledonia were actually the emerging parts of a hidden continent? This is the premise of a group of Pacific Island researchers, who just published in the journal of the Geological Society of America a study named ” Zealandia: the hidden continent of the Earth .”
Zealandia is a continent of 4.9 million km2, separated from Australia and its 7.8 million km2. This continent of New Zealand is submerged at 94%, which makes it the most overwhelmed of all continents. Only parts above sea level: the islands of New Zealand and New Caledonia.
According to the researchers, this precise part of the continental crust is large enough and sufficiently distinct from other continents “to be considered not just as a continental fragment or a microcontinent, but as a true continent – Zealandia”.
“This is not a sudden discovery, but a gradual awareness,” the researchers said. Ten years ago, we would not have had sufficient data and confidence in the interpretation of this data to write this document. “The new data obtained from marine geological The existence of this continent, already evoked in the scientific world.
It was in 1995 that the term “Zealandia” appeared for the first time. Bruce Luyendyk then uses Zealandia to gather under one name New Zealand and three underwater plateaus neighbors (Chatham, Campbell and Lord-Howe). But Luyendyk mentioned “only in passing” the Zealandia without defining it “as we do here,” the researchers say.
To prove that this part of the earth’s crust is indeed a continent, the researchers say that the Zealandia groups together the four key attributes considered as constituting a continent: height in relation to the surrounding ocean zone; A specific geology; A thicker crust and a slower seismic velocity than that of the oceanic crust.
Seventh or eighth continent?
It remains to be seen whether the Zealandia will be accepted by the global geological community as a continent. And if it is the seventh or the eighth earthly continent.
For if we generally consider that there are seven continents (Africa, Antarctica, Asia, South America, North America, Europe and Oceania), the account is not the same for everyone.
Some geologists consider that Europe and Asia form one and the same continent, Eurasia. Others other than the two Americas are in fact one continent. Finally, Africa, Asia and Europe are sometimes united in a supercontinent: Afro-Eurasia. Thus, according to the theory adopted, there are four, five, six or seven continents. And so, today, maybe an eighth.