New Zealand sits on top of a previously unknown continent. The continent is mostly submerged beneath the South Pacific and scientists are in favour of naming it Zealandia.
Scientists from GNS Science, a New Zealand-based scientific research body, has informed recently that Zealandia was once a part of the Gondwana super-continent. It broke away about 100 million years ago. The region is not a collection of continental fragments. The scientific value of classifying Zealandia as a continent is much more than just an extra name on a list. Scientists have been gathering data to make the case for Zealandia to be classified as a continent for more than twenty years.
This paper, titled “Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent”, reviews a decades-long debate regarding the classification of the continental crust that makes up New Zealand and the underwater mounds that surrounds it. The team ultimately concluded that geologic convention requires Zealandia to be considered the eighth continent. The authors argue that it already meets the definition that is widely accepted by the geologic community.
The scientists have provided arguments for each of the points. They claim that Zealandia is indeed elevated above the surrounding oceanic crust and stated, “The main difference with other continents is that it has much wider and deeper continental shelves than is usually the case.” Zealandia’s crust is not as thick as other continental crusts but it is significantly different from the surrounding coastal crust. Finally, they have declared that Zealandia’s size is larger than anything currently defined as a micro continent.
Speaking to UK-based newspaper, The Guardian, the University of Melbourne Professor of Earth Sciences, Barry Kohn said that there is a “fair consensus in the scientific community” in favour of Zealandia’s existence. He conti-nued, “It’s pretty clear that the whole area is not part of the ocean. It’s got all the hallmarks of a continent.”
Zealandia, which spans roughly 4.9 million square kilometres (1.9 million square miles) and is about 95% underwater, has unravelled itself over the last fifty years. And like many geologic discoveries, it began with the human drive to exploit natural resources.
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