Geologists propose that lying beneath New Zealand is a long-hidden continent called Zealandia.
A continuous expanse of continental crust covering 4.9 million sq/kms, Zealandia is bigger than the Indian subcontinent, but it would be the smallest of the world’s continents. Unlike the others, around 94 per cent of Zealandia hides beneath the ocean. Only New Zealand, New Caledonia and a few small islands are visible above the sea.
Zealandia rises about 9,800 feet above the surrounding ocean crust. “If it wasn’t for the ocean level, long ago we’d have recognized Zealandia for what it was — a continent,” says geologist Nick Mortimer.
Zealandia probably began as part of the south-eastern edge of the supercontinent Gondwana before it began breaking off around 100 million years ago. This break-up distorted Zealandia, ultimately lowering it below sea level.
Zealandia faces a battle for continent status as there is no scientific body that formally recognizes continents. Recognizing it as a continent would help scientists piece together ancient supercontinents, and help in the study of how geologic forces reshape landmasses over time.