There's a New Continent to Add to Your Bucket List
Posted on 10/30/2017
Most travelers are familiar with the seven traditionally recognized continents: North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia/Oceania, Africa and Antarctica.
If you're among the ilk who like to keep count of how many countries and continents you’ve visited, however, be warned that your bucket list might need some updating.
That's because geologists are pushing for official recognition of Zealandia, a “hidden” continent, which is mostly a submerged land mass—about the size of India—connecting New Zealand and New Caledonia.
Unlike Atlantis, the continent of Zealandia has some hard science driving proof of its existence.
In a nutshell, the landform identified as Zealandia was once part of the supercontinent Gondwana. About 80 million years ago it split from Australia, becoming a totally separate landmass.
The Geological Society of America (GSA) stated in March research, that New Zealand and New Caledonia are large, isolated islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean that have “never been regarded as part of the Australian continent, although the geographic term Australasia often is used for the collective land and islands of the southwest Pacific region.”
Because so much the “new” continent is located more than a kilometer below the ocean’s surface, not much hard research has really been done in the area. Earlier this summer, however, a team of 32 scientists from 12 countries, in partnership with Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) at Texas A&M University conducted an intensive nine-week journey to survey the region. What they found has more than convinced them that Zealandia is worthy of continental status.
To be sure, the politics behind continental definitions is murky. First, there is no international body that officially keeps or manages the names of continents.
Also, the exact definition of a continental body also falls into a grey area. Roughly, says EarthSky, a continent is a “large, discrete mass of land, separated by oceans.” But by this definition, North America and South America would really be one continent as would Europe and Asia.
If you’re into extra-technical science-speak, the GSA wrote, “We argue that Zealandia is not a collection of partly submerged continental fragments but is a [coherent] continent. Currently used conventions and definitions of continental crust, continents and microcontinents require no modification to accommodate Zealandia.”
While 93 percent of Zealandia is located underwater, the above-water portions house some five million people according to Atlas Obscura.
Want to check Zealandia off your bucket list? Here are four glorious destinations where you can do so:
Lord Howe Island Group
Now, go forth and start updating those travel lists.
PHOTO: New Zealand:
part of Zealandia or Australasia?
(photo via Pixabay/MartyNZ)