As of 14th February 2017, Geologists at the Geological Society of America published a journal conveying the potential discovery of an undiscovered continent. However, this continent is yet to be acclaimed officially. The total area of the potential continent is estimated to be around 4.9 Million Square Kilometre. The continent is named ‘Zealandia’ after New Zealand.
About 60 to 85 million years ago, this landmass broke away from Australia and submerged partially within the ocean. It was also cut-off from Antarctica, some 85 to 130 million years ago. It has been completely submerged since 23 million years ago. About 93% of the total surface of the continent has been submerged in the Pacific Ocean. We know the remaining meters of the continent as New Zealand and New Caledonia.
Covering an area of 4.9 million square Kilometres, ‘Zealandia,’ currently holds the title of being ‘the largest micro-continent,’ and is about double the size of the next micro-continent. Its size is nearly similar to the size of India. It is also around two-thirds the size of Australia.
Geologists and other scientists suggest that ‘Zealandia’ qualifies all the basic criteria for a land to be acknowledged as a continent. Irrespective of the general idea that a continent should not be submerged under water, geologists check a different set of rules for a landmass to be declared as a continent. According to geologists, a continent must have;
- An elevation, well above its surrounding.
- A distinct geology from its surrounding.
- An area that is properly defined.
- A crust that is reasonably thicker than the regular ocean floor.
‘Zealandia’, currently satisfies all the criteria as mentioned above to be known as continent.
Zealandia consists of, two approximately parallel ridges that are separated by a failed rift, where the rift breaks up and forms a ‘graben’. The ridges have an approximate elevation of 1,000 to 1,500 metres above the ocean floor. These ridges also consist of discontinuous rocky islands that rise above the sea level. They have a thin crust having a thickness of about 20 Kilometres above the ocean floor.
Although ‘Zealandia’ is mostly submerged under water, it has all the attributes to be declared as the eighth continent. It is just a matter of time when this declaration goes official.