The long lost continent Zealandia in Pacific


“There are still wonders left in this world”. Yes, even though embarrassing, it is believable. Zealandia is expected to be recognized as a continent soon. The claim for recognition is demanded by some geographers of New Zealand who are studying about the ocean floor around New Zealand for more than twenty years. Their claims were published in the latest February-March edition of Geographical Society of America Today (GSA Today), which is considered as one of the most reputed research journals in the field of geosciences (or earth science which is studying about planet earth) published by Geographical Society of America founded in 1888. Nick Mortimer, the leading scientist of the team published the article along with his colleagues with all the necessary home worked details for their claim.

The landmass is nothing newly discovered as it was there for lakhs of years but never had any sufficient data to recognize as a separate continent but considered only as part of Australia. Zealandia is on the right side of Australia when we are looking on a map. The name ‘Zealandia’ is given by Bruce Luyendyk in 1995. It has New Caledonia on the northern side, Auckland and Campbell islands on south, Lord Howe Island on the west and Chathams on the east. The present New Zealand which is so far a part of continent Australia is part of Zealandia now. New Zealand as well as New Candelia is the biggest land masses of this continent that is standing above water as 94% of this Zealandia is submerged in water now. Hence you can doubt how such a place on earth can be called a continent. Well there are some fundamental conditions for terming a landmass as continent. They are 1)the landmass should be higher than ocean floor 2) it must have larger stock of siliceous igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks 3) comparing to surrounding ocean floor, it must have a thicker crust and 4) the land mass should be large enough (but how much large is not defined). But the challenge in front of GNS scientists is different – so far there is no internationally recognized agency to confirm status of continents, it is only through academic discourses such a feather can be given to Zealandia.

Remember, Zealandia is not newly discovered but now claimed to be a continent because many under sea geographical features related to the land mass is added to our knowledge. It is as like as discovering new features of continent Mauritius under sea which helped the Witwatersrand University researchers to prove that there is a hidden continent called Mauritia. It was in 2006, International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto from planet to dwarf planet citing that a ‘planet should not be surrounded by objects of similar size and characteristics’ after discovering ‘details’. But, in 2014, IAU planet definition committee chairperson Owen Gingerich (Science historian, Harvard University) argued that a planet is a culturally defined word that changes over time; hence Pluto should be recognized as a planet. This is the case with Mesentery (a part of human body proposed for organ status) too. Medical experts knew Mesentery as a tissue between intestines and abdomen. Now with the help of latest microscopic studies it was proved that mesentery is an independent organ.

It is equally important to understand the power politics behind geographical identities too. Or otherwise we must assert that continents are identified not only from geographical conditions, but political equations play an equally important role. If not it will be Eurasia (the term used for referring Asia and Europe together) at present. Anyway we can expect that Zealandia will be ranked as the 8th continent in our primary class text books soon.