Joint research by geologists from institutes in New Zealand, Australia and New Caledonia has led to the discovery of a brand new continent (at least that’s how the geologists want to classify it).
In a paper published though GeoSociety, the geologists claim that the new continent lies to the east of Australia in the south-west of the Pacific Ocean and part of the Tasman Sea.
The land mass is 4.9 million square kilometres big and 94 percent of the land is submerged underwater. This would make it the eighth and smallest continent if the paper’s findings are confirmed.
The team has proposed the name Zealandia for the new continent, which lies squarely between Australia and New Zealand.
Until now, the researchers say that Zealandia had only fit three of the four criteria required for it to be considered a continent. Using satellite technology and gravity maps of the sea floor, they were able to reveal that the land mass is a large unified area, fulfilling the last requirement.
They described the discovery of Zealandia not as a sudden ‘Eureka’ moment but a gradual realisation. According to the study, most of the new continent was part of Australia until 60-85 million years ago, when it broke off and sank.
Why not call it Australiana? It could be because of the eleven researchers just one is an Aussie. Poor guy was outnumbered.
Jokes aside, the political and economic implications of the new continent may be important. When new land is discovered, the first question is “Who owns it?”, which is closely followed by “What’s it worth?” These questions might matter if, for example, Zealandia was found to be full of juicy fossil fuels.
At this point, Australia seems pretty nonplussed by the whole idea.
Nature reports that Peter Cawood, a geologist at Monash University said, “Claiming that Zealandia is a continent is a bit like stamp collecting. So what?” And while I don’t mind taking the piss out of Kiwis, I think we should draw the line at stamp collectors. They have done nothing wrong.
The friendly rivalry between Australia and New Zealand is legendary. On the one hand, Australia is bigger, has better marsupials, more people and better weather. Sport is pretty even, they are better at rugby and we have the edge in cricket and soccer.
Recently though, New Zealand has been making some gains and we should be worried. They have more hobbits and faster internet than us. Their dollar has almost reached parity with ours and now they are making a play for land! Australia is meant to be the only continent in town. Losing this could be the tipping point.
At least if the Kiwis keep Zealandia they won’t have to worry about a flag. They can use some of the finalists from the failed campaign to change the New Zealand one.