Discovering Zealandia: Unveiling the hidden continent
Imagine a continent lost beneath the sea, remaining a secret from humanity until now. Meet Zealandia, also known as Te Riu-a-Māui in the Māori language. This vast landmass, sprawling over 5 million square kilometers—double the size of India—was only brought into the global spotlight in 2017, challenging what we thought we knew about Earth's continents.
Why has Zealandia remained a mystery until recently?
The answer lies in its elusive nature, with 95% of its territory hidden beneath the southwest Pacific Ocean. This submerged continent, existing long before humans, reveals itself only through New Zealand's mountainous islands and a few small oceanic isles.
Unlocking Zealandia's secrets has been a monumental task. A dedicated team of international geologists recently achieved a breakthrough, creating a comprehensive geological map of this elusive continent. This map, a product of sea-recovered rock samples and sophisticated geophysical mapping, unveils the contours of Zealandia's hidden landscape.
During their exploration, geologists uncovered significant sandstone formations and basaltic rock deposits tracing Zealandia's outer edges. These sandstones, estimated to be around 95 million years old, contain ancient granite and volcanic pebbles. These findings suggest Zealandia's past as a land of rivers flowing from volcanic highlands into tectonic basins, a land that once thrived above water.
The discovery of basalt pebbles, indicators of underwater volcanic activity, points to Zealandia's submersion around 40 million years ago. This revelation not only expands our understanding of the planet's geological history but also ignites our imagination with the thought of a vast, hidden continent beneath the ocean's surface.
The findings, detailed in the study "Reconnaissance basement geology and tectonics of North Zealandia," published in the journal Tectonics (2023), mark a significant milestone in geology, offering a rare glimpse into Earth's dynamic geological past and the mysterious continent of Zealandia.