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Scientists discover the 8th continent of the world!

Environment 22 Feb 2021
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8th continent

We have known from our school days that there are seven continents in the world. But now the 8th continent surfaced. The curious mind of humankind has always searched for the unknown to quench their curiosity. A Dutch sailor named Abel Tasman set sailed with two small ships to discover a new continent in 1642. Traveling through the Eastern, Western, and Northern part he and his crew reached the southernmost island of New Zealand.

In his course, he faced mutiny between his crew amongst other hazards. The local Maori tribe attacked their ships, wrecked one, and killed many of his men. Devastated by this attack, Tasman named the region Murderers Bay and returned home. After a long time of 375 years, recently it was revealed that the region Tasman set camp was indeed a part of a new continent. That was previously named Terra Australis. And currently, discoverers renamed it the 8th continent, Zealandia.

How did scientists find the 8th continent Zealandia?

There has been plenty of effort after Abel Tasman. 100 years after the adventure of Tasman, an English mapmaker James Cook was sent on a secret mission to find a new continent in the south. It was assumed that he actually found it! But the first geological proof of Zealandia was recorded in the notes of Scottish naturalist Sir James Hector. While he was surveying the island at the southernmost part of New Zealand in 1895.

He referred that New Zealand might be a part of a union of some Rockey islands. Finally, in 2017, a team of geologists from the Crown Research Institute GNS Science of New Zealand declared that they have indeed found the eighth continent of the world Zealandia. Or Te Riu-a-Maui in the local Maori language. It is 4.9 million square km in size. 94% of the continent is under the ocean or more specifically 2 km under the water.

How was Zealandia formed?

It is supposed that Zealandia was a part of the ancient supercontinent Gondwanaland. Some 550 million years ago. Geologist Andy Tulloch working on this research project says, “Around 1.5 billion years ago Zealandia started to get separated from Gondwanaland and we do not know the reason yet.”

Generally, a continental crust is 40 km deep on average. But while separating from Gondwanaland, it was so stretched that Zealandia’s crust depth reached down to 20 km and went underwater. Though 94% of its area is underwater, due to the collision between the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates some parts formed ridges above water. This discovery comes up with some unsolved mysteries like how did this continent manage to stay as one against oceanic current and tension between tectonic plates despite being so thin?

But geologists after analyzing the rocks, minerals and geological characteristics have declared Zealandia to be a new continent. Scientists are now analyzing the fossils found there to shed light on the unanswered questions.