March 22, 2023: After 375 years of exploration, scientists have finally discovered the "missing" Zealandia or Te Riu-a-Māui. Continue reading to know more!
The continents we know of, are, from largest to smallest: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.
Known as Riu-a-Māui in the Māori language, the lost continent of Zealandia has finally been unearthed after 375 years of speculation and exploration. The continent is approximately 1.89 million square miles in size and was once part of supercontinent Gondwana, almost 500 million years ago (which also included Western Antarctica and Eastern Australia).
Geologists are still trying to figure out the reason behind Zealandia retreating from Gondwana roughly 105 million years ago. As it pulled away from the supercontinent, over 94% of the mainland got submerged beneath the waters, slowly sinking underneath the waves.
In 1642, while Dutch businessman and sailor Abel Tasman was on a mission to find the "great Southern Continent" or Terra Australis, he accidentally discovered the existence of Zealandia when he landed on the Southern Island of New Zealand. Despite the hostility displayed by the local Maori community towards him, he could also accumulate crucial information from them regarding their neighbourhood mainland and landmass towards the east.
However, GNS geologists discovered Zealandia hiding in plain sight in 2017. About 6,560 (2km) of water level was recorded resting above the landmass.
The newly discovered micro continent boasts some unique characteristics that make it stand out from the other continents on the planet. Compared to the other continents housing multiple countries, Zealandia only has three territories. This was noted by Nick Mortimer, the geologist who led the study.
The discovery of Zealandia brings a huge portion of the Earth's geological history out of darkness and sheds light on some important functionals of the formation of the continents we see today.
The Media Headlines are confusing as some of them claim that Zealandia is officially a Continent, some call it a microcontinent while some are publishing statements about scientists still arguing against it.
As long as it doesn't appear in your text books...it isn't a Continent yet.