Scientists Journey To The Lost Continent Of Zealandia

Posted: Jul 28 2017, 5:07pm CDT | by , Updated: Jul 28 2017, 7:43pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 

Scientists Journey to Lost Continent of Zealandia
The map of Zealandia. Credit: IODP
 

Two-month ocean drilling expedition to the submerged continent of Zealandia will provide clues about its history, tectonic processess and sub seafloor life

Earlier this year, researchers confirmed the existence of a lost continent beneath the South Pacific Ocean. The massive submerged continent was named Zealandia and researchers suggested that it was once part of the supercontinent Gondwana that broke up about 100 million years ago.

A team of 30 scientists is now setting sail to unlock the secrets of Zealandia, which could be the eighth continent of the world.

“If you go way back, about 100 million years ago, Antarctica, Australia and Zealandia were all one continent," said expedition co-chief scientist Gerald Dickens from Rice University. "Around 85 million years ago, Zealandia split off on its own, and for a time, the seafloor between it and Australia was spreading on either side of an ocean ridge that separated the two."

Zealandia is about half the size of Australia and surrounds New Zealand. Unlike other continents, more than 90 percent of Zealandia is submerged. Although region is important, it has never been properly studied.

Starting on July 27, the two-month expedition will investigate the hidden continent by using world's most sophisticated scientific drill ships. This will be the first time researchers will drill at six ocean sites between Australia and New Zealand and reach the depths of around 800 meters into the seafloor for collecting samples. Samples of sediments deposited over millions of years will help researchers assemble a detailed record of Zealandia's past and provide clues about its tectonic processes, sub seafloor life and above all an insight into a massive shift, which occurred about 50 million years ago in the northeast of Zealandia.

“Some 50 million years ago, a massive shift in plate movement happened in the Pacific Ocean," said Jamie Allan, a program director in National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences, which is funding the expedition International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). "It resulted in the diving of the Pacific Plate under New Zealand, the uplift of New Zealand above the waterline, and the development of a new arc of volcanoes. This IODP expedition will look at the timing and causes of these changes as well as at related changes in ocean circulation patterns and ultimately Earth's climate."

When Zealandia fluctuated, it significantly changed global circulation patterns. An investigation into the region’s history could help understand the evolution of Earth’s climate in the last 60 million years.

“We're really looking at the best place in the world to understand how plate subduction initiates," said Professor Dickens. "This expedition will answer a lot of lingering questions about Zealandia."

 

This story may contain affiliate links.

Comments

The Author


Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

Advertisement

comments powered by Disqus