What is Zealandia?

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What is Zealandia? Blog Image

Overview:

Geoscientists recently discovered a continent known as Zealandia that had been hiding in plain sight for almost 375 years.

About Zealandia:

  • It is a long, narrow microcontinent that is mostly submerged in the South Pacific Ocean.
  • Location: It is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, primarily to the east of Australia and to the south of New Caledonia. It encompasses the region that includes New Zealand and New Caledonia.
  • Formation:
    • Zealandia or Te Riu-a-Māui in the Māori language was formally one of the constituent continents of the ancient supercontinent called Gondwana, which also included Western Antarctica and Eastern Australia over 500 million years ago. 
    • It began to "pull away" from Gondwana roughly 105 million years ago.
    • As Zealandia started pulling away, it began to sink beneath the waves, with over 94 percent remaining underwater for millennia.
  • It is approximately 1.89 million square miles (4.9 million square km) in size, about half the size of Australia.
  • The vast majority of this new continent lies beneath 6,560 feet (2km) of water.
  • The part of Zealandia which is above water forms the foundation of New Zealand's north and south islands as well as the island of New Caledonia. 
  • Tectonic Plate Boundaries: Zealandia is situated along the boundary of several tectonic plates, including the Australian Plate, Pacific Plate, and Indo-Australian Plate.
  • The existence of Zealandia was first recorded in 1642 by Dutch businessman and sailor Abel Tasman, who was on a mission to find the "great Southern Continent," or Terra Australis.

 


Q1) What are Tectonic Plates?

Tectonic plates are large, rigid pieces of the Earth's lithosphere (the outermost shell of the Earth) that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. They cover the entire surface of the Earth and are responsible for the movement and shaping of the planet's crust. These plates can vary in thickness and density.

Source: Scientists discover 'missing' continent that had been seen for 375 years