In a groundbreaking discovery, geoscientists have unveiled Zealandia, a continent that had remained concealed for nearly 375 years. This remarkable revelation came about through the meticulous work of a small team of geologists and seismologists who have now crafted an updated map of Zealandia, also known as Te Riu-a-Maui, as reported by Phys.org. This revelation was made possible by analyzing data collected from rock samples extracted from the ocean floor. Detailed findings of this research have been documented in the journal Tectonics.
Zealandia, according to a BBC report, spans an impressive 1.89 million square miles (4.9 million square kilometers), making it approximately six times larger than Madagascar. Astonishingly, this discovery adds an eighth continent to our world, setting records as the smallest, thinnest, and most recent continent on Earth.
Notably, Zealandia is predominantly submerged, with a staggering 94% of its landmass lying beneath the ocean’s surface. It bears a resemblance to New Zealand, boasting only a handful of islands. “This discovery serves as a compelling example of how something so obvious can remain hidden for an extended period,” remarked Andy Tulloch, a geologist affiliated with the New Zealand Crown Research Institute GNS Science, who was part of the pioneering team behind the Zealandia discovery, as reported by BBC.
The study of Zealandia has always posed considerable challenges to scientists. To gain insights into this enigmatic continent, researchers have been scrutinizing collections of rock and sediment samples extracted from the ocean floor, primarily sourced from drilling sites, with some originating from islands in the vicinity.
As detailed in Phys.org, the examination of these rock samples unveiled geological patterns in West Antarctica, hinting at the presence of a subduction zone near the Campbell Plateau off the west coast of New Zealand. However, magnetic anomalies were conspicuously absent in this region, countering theories regarding the Campbell Fault and a strike-slip motion.
The newly refined map not only pinpoints the location of Zealandia’s magmatic arc axis but also highlights other significant geological features. Intriguingly, Zealandia’s origins trace back to the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, formed around 550 million years ago, consolidating landmasses in the southern hemisphere.
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