A new study performed by The Geological Society of America suggests that a large mass of land submerged in the southwest Pacific can classify as an eighth continent. The only exposed pieces of this so-called new continent are New Caledonia and the North and South Islands of New Zealand.
The study suggests that the continent has a surface of about 1.9 million square miles, which means that it would be two-thirds the size of Australia. It has not been spotted until now since 94 percent of its surface lies underwater.
There are no definite scientific criteria that continents should meet so that they can be called continents. However, the scientists declared that Zealandia (this is how they named the possible new landmass) has all the characteristics that the other continents have.
The criteria include a higher elevation than the surrounding area, elements from the three main types of geology, boundaries that are well-defined, and a crust which is thicker than the bottom of the ocean. The lead author of the study, Nick Mortimer, declared that he and his team have been studying this new continent and trying to put all the elements together for more than twenty years.
The main challenge that they have faced is the fact that Zealandia lies underwater. Mortimer declared that, if the water were not there, it would be clear that the land hosts mountain chains and all the elements of a continent. He hopes that, one day, Zealandia would appear on maps and in geography textbooks.
This discovery might act as an explanation for the unusual geology of New Zealand. Last November, a massive earthquake with the magnitude 7.6 did not only cause destruction, but created new land along Waipapa Bay. During the earthquake, an underwater reef rose 20 feet above sea level in just a few seconds.
Also, a huge cliff appeared on a beach in the town of Kaikoura after the sea floor was lifted one to six feet above its previous position. This sea wall that now lies on the beach is covered in seaweed and marine animals.
Also, the fault nearby Kekerengu is now vertical. This caused many roads to suddenly suffer steep drop offs, while other were affected by landslides.
The geologists stress the importance of their discovery and suggest that the recognition of Zealandia as an eighth continent would not just add a new name on the list.
Image Source: Pixabay