For many decades, human beings thought they knew everything about the tectonic structure of the Planet. Since we were little, we learned at school that the Earth has six continents and that the oceans are practically unexplored.
Apparently, we were mistaken. Geologists gave the scientific community a good shake by claiming that a seventh continent was found: Zealandland.
O awesome.club is always on the lookout for new discoveries, so we want to share more details about this new continent with you.
Zealandia is the name of a portion of continental mass off the coast of Australia, first used in 1995. At that time, the mass was believed to be rocky terrain beneath New Zealand and New Caledonia, then considered a chain of islands. A 2016 study published by Magazine of the Geological Society of the United States concluded that the facts are not quite like that. The scientists who carried out the research gathered information for 10 years and discovered that, in reality, this huge mass is a submerged continent.
The most surprising thing is that New Zealand and New Caledonia have been part of one big rock all this time. These are not islands, as we thought, but, in fact, peaks of a large continental mass. The continent of Zealand would have separated from Oceania between 60 to 85 million years ago🇧🇷
Like all modern continents we know, the two were part of a supercontinent called Gondwana. Until recently, it was believed that the continents could not sink and leave some parts on the surface of the water. Zealandia has an area of 5 million square kilometers, which is equivalent to two thirds of Australia; but 94% of it is within a mile of the Pacific Ocean.
Little is known about this mysterious terrain. We are used to believing that continents are blocks of dry land big enough to support millions of living beings. However, this is not entirely true.
One of the most important indicators of a continent is its elevation above sea floor🇧🇷 We’ve known for over a century that New Zealand’s northern and southern territories are high enough to be considered continental crust. However, Zealandia had problems receiving this ‘title’ for the simple fact that it is much deeper than the other continents.
The second factor to be taken into account in the nature of a continent is the geological traits. To call something a continent it is not enough for a land mass to rise above the ocean. That’s why scientists had to include other features. For example, crust types. Oceanic crust is made primarily of basalt and gabbro. On the other hand, the continental crust has several igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, such as granite, limestone or shale. Although it is underwater, the Zealandia’s terrain is all that and more🇧🇷 There have been dozens of marine expeditions over the past 20 years to sample the crust, and they’ve all come to the same conclusion: the rocks found were of the continental typenot oceanic.
The third evidence that a seventh continent has been found is thickness. Ocean floor is usually about seven kilometers thick, while continental crust is much more massive.
THE thickness of Zealandia ranges from 10 to 30 km🇧🇷 And finally, we must consider the aspect of boundaries and surface when classifying a continent. Continents have naturally defined boundaries. This is why, for example, Greenland is considered part of America, not a continent. Regarding the size for an area to be considered a continent, scientists have not yet established a single criterion. There are terms like the ‘microcontinent’, with Madagascar and Mauritius as prime examples. As Zealandia is much larger than any of these places, it could, in principle, be considered a full-sized continent.
Now that you’ve come this far, what do you think of this discovery? What is your opinion about this? Be sure to share your ideas in the comments!
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