Earth’s Newest Continent ‘Zealandia,’ New Details About This Mysterious Land

Earlier this year, scientists confirmed that there is officially a new continent to add to the former list of seven. The discovery of Zealandia has caused excitement and new details are being uncovered about this mainly-covered continent.

Zealandia, interestingly enough, is 94 percent under water in the southwestern portion of the Pacific Ocean and the new continent sits quite near to New Zealand. Zealandia is made up of the expansive landmass that is mainly located a mile underwater, and also includes a network of islands which were discovered hundreds of years ago, far ahead of the massive underwater mass that was recently uncovered.

The continent first began to attract the attention of scientists 50 years ago, yet no expeditions have been undergone to collect information about the underwater landmass aside from one that took place in 1971, as Newsweek notes.

New discoveries from useful expeditions indicate that “fossils and volcanic rocks show that northern Zealandia, an area about the size of India, was radically affected by formation of the Pacific Ring of Fire.”

The study suggests that the shift in formation is the link to the manner that animals and plants were able to disperse across the southwest Pacific and evolve as they have.

The publication notes that due to observations, data has been collected that the surfaces that are covered by “more than 1,000 meters (3,280ft) of water became land or shallow seas,” while additional sections of the continent that are currently “under 3,000 meters (1.8 miles) of water may have been much shallower, or even land.”

The group of scientists that are excitedly engaged in the expedition at Zealandia, indicate that their main focus at this point is to determine why it is that land moves and changes formation, noting that “Zealandia was closer to the South Pole 50 million years ago, but had a warm climate.” This is perplexing to the investigators.

People may think that criteria for a continent to be deemed as such would include the majority of the land mass being above water. However, as BBC reminded, there is a new set of criteria that scientists follow and via these new set of criteria have determined that Zealandia is, in fact, a continent.

These criteria now include elevation above the surrounding area, distinctive geology, a well-defined area, and a crust thicker than the regular ocean floor.

[Featured Image by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images]