Lost continent discovered beneath the waves

Tectonic: New Zealand, Zealandia’s only independent country, is formed of two islands.

Should Zealandia be added to our maps? Scientists drilling in the South Pacific Ocean have made the extraordinary discovery of an underwater continent that was once teeming with life.

What’s happening

A world map will show you seven large land masses. These are continents. You will not find Zealandia on a map but scientists now think it should be added. They recently explored the sunken landmass and discovered it was once closer to sea level and supported life. Does this rewrite tectonic history?

Find out more

Scientists have discovered that 80 million years ago animals and plants existed on Zealandia. It sank into the ocean leaving only a few islands above sea level.

In 1995 it was named by Bruce Luyendyk. For years academics have been arguing over whether it qualifies as a continent. Many say that, because it was once high enough from the sea floor and has a thick crust like other continents, it should be given the same recognition.

Our continents fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. This is because over 200 million years ago they were all part of the same land mass; Pangaea. Lava which flows under the earth’s crust broke up this super continent, forming lots of new continents. One of these was Zealandia.

Should Zealandia be drawn into new maps?

Some say…

Yes! This continent is just as important as any other. It is about half the size of Australia. It was once above the sea and home to life. As proof of this, scientists have found fossils of plants and microbes. Just because it is underwater now does not make it less of a continent. Putting it on a map is a great way to teach people more about it.

Others think…

No! Zealandia is 94% under water, why would we need to see it on a map? Maps are meant to show us where land is. There is something secret and magical about Zealandia. If we start drawing in underwater continents on our land maps, where will it stop? Every land mass would need scribbling in. Leave this mysterious piece of underwater land alone.

You Decide

  1. Should Zealandia be added to the world map?

Activities

  1. Watch this short film from BBC Science about Pangaea and our continents. Draw a map of the world as you think it will look in 100 million years time.

Some People Say...

“Before maps, the world was limitless.”

Abdulrazak Gurnah

What do you think?

Word Watch

Continents
The world’s main large landmasses.
Tectonic
Relating to the earth’s crust. Tectonic plates make up or form the earth’s crust.
Bruce Luyendyk
An oceanographer, ie, someone interested in sea life and the geography of the underwater world.
Academics
Related to studying and scholarship, or education and teaching.
Recognition
Identifying from previous encounters, acknowledging or appreciating. In this case acknowledging or accepting that Zealandia exists.

Subjects

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