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Researchers embark on expedition to explore the lost—sunken continent of Zealandia

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Researchers embark on expedition to explore the lost—sunken continent of Zealandia

Experts journey to the world’s ‘Lost’ 8th Continent is underway. Experts will drill into the lost sunken continent to uncover its secrets. Zealandia, as it’s called, was found in 2017.

Zealandia, about half the size of Australia, surrounds New Zealand. Image Credit: IODP

A group of 30 adventuristic scientists has embarked on an expedition led by the National University of Australia to unveil the secrets of the sunken continent of Zealandia, the “lost” continent whose existence was confirmed by scholars earlier this year, Phys.org reports.

According to earlier reports, this “lost, sunken” continent covers about 5 million square kilometers (more than half the size of Australia) and could be the eighth continent of the world.

“We’re looking at the best place on the surface of the planet to understand how plate subduction initiates,” expedition co-chief scientist Gerald Dickens, a professor of Earth, environmental and planetary science at the Rice University in Texas, said in a report. “This journey will answer numerous a lot of questions about Zealandia.”

In 2017, scientists finally confirmed the existence of a lost continent, which once belonged to a supercontinent, located beneath the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists believe that some 100 million years ago, Zealand, Australia, and Antarctica formed a single continent. Then, some 85 million years ago, Zealandia broke off the supercontinent and began to move northeast. This process stopped approximately 53 million years ago.

A detailed map of IODP Expedition 371 to Zealandia. Image Credit: IODP

The Sunken Continent is located to the east of Australia and includes New Zealand and New Caledonia that according to the authors, are not island chains but are part of a single plate of continental crust. More than 90% of the area of Zealand is submerged in the ocean.

“If you travel back in time, go way back, some 100 million years ago, Antarctica, Australia, and Zealandia were all one giant continent,” Gerald Dickens, co-chief scientist of the IODP expedition, said in a statement.

The two-month adventuristic voyage, known as Expedition 371 of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), began on July 27 and aims to investigate the history, underwater life and tectonic processes of the sunken continent. Researchers will use the world’s most advanced scientific vessels to drill in 6 different locations between New Zealand and Australia.

Descent into the lost continent of Zealandia: A view from the deck of the scientific drillship JOIDES Resolution. Image Credit: IODP

In addition to the above, scientists will collect sediment samples from depths of almost 800 meters. These sediments have accumulated over millions of years, and the fossils present in them will help experts compile a detailed record of the history of the lost continent.

 

Expedition 371 will also investigate the change in Earth’s tectonic plates that occurred about 50 million years ago in northeastern Zealand.

“When the community does climate modeling for the Eocene Epoch [56 to approximately 33.9 million years ago], this is the area that causes consternation, and right now we’re not sure why,” Dickens said. “It may be because we had continents that were much shallower than we thought. Or we could have the continents right, but at the wrong latitude. The cores will help us figure that out.”

According to the scientists, the study can also help determine how the Earth’s climate has evolved over the past 60 million years.


Source: Zealandia should hold answers about tectonics, past climate

Ivan

Ivan is editor-in-chief at ancient-code.com, he also writes for Universe Explorers.
You may have seen him appear on the Discovery and History Channel.

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