The new continent, Zealandia, lies to the east of Australia, near New Zealand.
Apparently, everything you learned in school is wrong: A new scientific study now states that there are eight continents and seven geologic continents — Europe and Asia are part of the same supermassive continent, despite geopolitics dividing them into two “continents.”
The study’s researchers say that after scrutinizing the Earth’s crust, they came to the realization that a distinct, as-yet-unrecognized seventh geologic continent was hiding beneath New Zealand and New Caledonia.
These tiny island chains are not that what they seem. Instead, they are a part of largely-submerged 1.89 million square mile landmass of continental crust that the researchers are calling “Zealandia” that could be rich with billions of dollars’ worth of fossil fuels and minerals.
“This is not a sudden discovery, but a gradual realization,” the researchers wrote in GSA Today, the Geological Society of America’s scientific journal. “As recently as ten years ago we would not have had the accumulated data or confidence in interpretation to write this paper.”
The reason why Zealandia has gone without recognition for such a long time is that, at first glance, Zealandia just seems like islands. However, the new study used satellites to create elevation and gravity maps of the seafloor. The data they collected found that Zealandia is “approximately the area of Greater India.”
“If the elevation of Earth’s solid surface had first been mapped in the same way as those of Mars and Venus (which lack […] opaque liquid oceans),” the researchers wrote, “we contend that Zealandia would, much earlier, have been investigated and identified as one of Earth’s continents.”
The findings are likely to be accepted by the geology scientific community, according to Bruce Luyendyk, the geophysicist at the University of California at Santa Barbara who came up with the term “Zealandia” in 1995 to describe the island chains and not a new continent.
“These people here are A-list earth scientists. I think they’ve put together a solid collection of evidence that’s really thorough. I don’t see that there’s going to be a lot of pushback, except maybe around the edges,” Luyendyk said to Business Insider.
Next, check out the more accurate world map that recently won a prestigious design award.