Written by Vedika Pathania, a first-year student.
We’ve all been taught that there are 7 continents on Earth. But as bizarre as it may sound, a hidden continent exists in the deep South Pacific Ocean, (near New Zealand)unknown by man until a few years ago.
The story goes back millions of years..
About 80 million years ago, Zealandia, a submerged continent, broke away from the supercontinent Gondwanaland. The enormous continent has been virtually entirely buried for the past 23 million years. The continent has a total area of 1.9 million square miles, making it almost half the size of Australia.
According to a new study, the landmass meets all of the criteria for a continental mass and would have been classified as one if it hadn’t been submerged beneath. A great interactive platform was just created by the New Zealand research company GNS Science to explore and study different levels of information and pictures across Zealandia.
Abel Tasman’s journey
The credit, however, goes to a Dutch sailor named Abel Tasman.
Tasman set out with two small ships from his company’s base in Jakarta, Indonesia, on August 14, 1642, heading west, then south, then east, ultimately arriving on New Zealand’s South Island. His first meeting with the indigenous Māori people did not go well: on the second day, several paddled out on a canoe and smashed a small boat that was delivering signals between the Dutch ships. A total of four Europeans were killed.
Later, the Europeans fired a cannon at 11 additional boats; the fate of their targets is unknown.
Then with a little irony, Tasman called the fatal site Moordenaers (Murderers) Bay, and sailed home some weeks later without having set foot on this new territory. While he felt he had discovered the huge southern continent, it was clearly not the commercial paradise he had imagined. He didn’t return.
Tasman had no idea that he had been correct all along. There was indeed a continent that was missing.
The continent is discovered
When a group of geologists reported their discovery of Zealandia –Te Riu-a-Māui in the Māori language in 2017, it made headlines.
Though encyclopedias, maps, and search engines throughout the world have long maintained that there are only seven continents, the team firmly told the world that this was incorrect. After all, there are eight of them, and the most recent addition is the world’s tiniest, thinnest, and youngest. The catch is that 94 percent of it is underwater, with only a few islands protruding from its deep depths, such as New Zealand. It’d been hidden in plain sight the whole time.
The mystery remains unsolved
Zealandia was formerly a member of Gondwana, an ancient supercontinent that spanned the southern hemisphere and basically grouped all of the continents together around 550 million years ago. On the eastern side, it shared a corner with many other countries, including half of West Antarctica and all of eastern Australia. Because of the kind of rocks discovered there, geologists know Zealandia is a continent, despite its thinness and submergence. Igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks such as granite, schist, and limestone make up the continental crust, whereas igneous rocks such as basalt make up the ocean floor. However, there are still a lot of unknowns. Geologists are fascinated by the unique origins of the eighth continent, which are both interesting and perplexing. For example, it’s still unclear how Zealandia managed to stay together and not dissolve into small micro-continents despite its thinness.
Another unsolved question is when Zealandia became submerged, and whether or not it has ever been dry ground. The ridges that have formed as the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates crashed together are the sections that are now above sea level. This begs the issue of who or what resided there.
The form of Zealandia is another remaining enigma. It’s safe to suppose that the continent will not reveal all of its secrets very soon. If nothing else, the world’s eighth continent demonstrates that there is still much to be discovered nearly 400 years after Tasman’s expedition.
The story summarised
- A new, eighth, continent- Zealandia has been discovered.
- About 80 million years ago, Zealandia, a submerged continent, broke away from the supercontinent Gondwanaland.
- In 1642, a Dutch sailor, Abel Tasman set out on a mission to discover the hidden continent. Even though his expedition was not successful, he was convinced that he found the continent but he never returned to finish his search.
- Zealandia is the world’s tiniest, thinnest, and youngest. The catch is that 94 percent of it is underwater, with only a few islands protruding from its deep depths, such as New Zealand.
- There are many mysteries about the continent that remain unsolved- its origins, inhabitants, formation, plates, geology, time of submergence, etc.