Our Earth has seven continents. At least that is what we have been taught since childhood, and that is what the Atlas says. But is it true?
The researchers in Australia and New Zealand are claiming that there is an eighth continent which they call Zealandia. The continent is submerged underwater with only 6% of the landmass visible above the surface.
The proposed continent of Zealandia covers an area of 1.9 million square miles (4.9 million square kilometers), with the highest point being Aoraki (Mount Cook) in New Zealand. The only land portions of Zealandia are New Caledonia and New Zealand. The entire continent is larger than the Indian Subcontinent but smaller than the Australian continent. It spans 3.3 million square miles (8.5 million square kilometers).
The idea of the eighth continent of Zealandia did not pop out of the blue. It was first proposed in 1995, but put in two different categories by scientists. It is believed to either be a landmass made up of fragments of continental crust or a micro-continent by some others, as the landmass is well-defined and is geologically isolated from all other continents.
Even though the idea of it being a micro-continent makes sense, but the advocates of the idea of Zealandia Continent say that it is much larger in size to other micro-continents. There is no defined minimum size for a mass to be declared a continent, but the proponents believe that any mass larger than 386,000 square miles (1 million square kilometers) should be considered so. They also use Antarctica as a supporting argument, and if it weren’t for its surface ice, most of its western half would be submerged in water.
What are the criteria for a landmass to be declared a continent? The landmass needs to be elevated above the ocean crust, should have a diverse geological composition, and a crust thickness of more than the average oceanic crust of 4 miles (7 km). Zealandia has a continental shelf submerged in water, but the land is substantially elevated above the ocean crust. It is composed of a diverse range of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. The land also fulfills the second criterion. The typical thickness of the continents is from 19 to 29 miles (30-46 km) while the Zealandia is only 6 to 25 mi (10 to 40 km), but it is still more than that of the oceanic crust, so Zealandia easily fulfills any conventional criteria for being considered as a continent.
We are still in a debate whether Pluto is a planet or not, and the same goes for the continent of Zealandia. If it ever gets accepted as a continent, imagine the geography disaster it will cause starting from a whole new Atlas.
We would like to know your thoughts on the continent of Zealandia. Comment below!