Scientists Discover New Zealand Sitting On its Own Entire Continent, “Zealandia”

If you thought that New Zealand was just a couple scrappy islands mucking around at a comfortable distance from Antarctica then prepare to expand your conception of it to an entire continent.

The Geological Society of America, GSA Today, has published a paper entitled “Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent,” by N. Mortimer and colleagues. The article casts new light on what’s going on just beneath the surface of our planet.

For instance most standards include only seven continents. Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia/Oceania, Europe, North America, and South America. But the study authors ask some hard questions, and then chuck a curveball of their own into the mix, challenging our perceptions surrounding continents.

“Are North America and South America truly separate continents with their connection through the Isthmus of Panama?” and extract by GSA Today said in a release. “Where and why does one distinguish Europe, Africa, and Asia considering the Bosphorus and Sinai Peninsula? One might suggest a geological reason: Continents are large, identifiable areas underlain by continental crust.”

Zealandia Continent Credit GSA Today

Image Credit: Gsa Today

And then there’s something they identify as Zealandia.

“One only needs to look at a bathymetric map, where ocean water is removed, to appreciate the issue.”

Zealandia is comprised of several islands, in particular New Zealand and New Caledonia which are connected by a submerged continental crust across a large area of Earth’s surface. The difference between us and say Europe is that our continent is all mostly underwater.

“This mostly underwater continent is geologically separate and distinct from Australia and Antarctica, and as highlighted by Mortimer and colleagues, should be treated as such. Basically, from a well-reasoned geoscience perspective, Earth has well-established continents, but also an extra one, mostly underwater.”

So there you have it. New Zealand is actually part of a massive continent that just happens to mostly be underwater. We like to keep everything we do understated here. We don’t like to brag about how big our continent is so we keep it submerged.

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