The Lost Continent of Zealandia Disappeared Millions of Years Ago — but These New Maps Show It in Stunning Detail

The lost continent Zealandia was discovered by scientists in 2017.

Zealandia Map
Photo: GNS Science

Scientists have unveiled a new map of the lost continent of Zealandia to show people what the world looked like some 85 million years ago.

On Monday, GNS Science, a New Zealand research institute, launched an interactive website with two new maps showing Zealandia’s tectonic profile, along with its shape against the ocean floor. This development is rather astonishing when you consider the lost continent of Zealandia was only discovered in 2017.

As CNN explained, Zealandia was once part of the same landmass as Antarctica and Australia. However, some 85 million years ago the land broke off and sank to the ocean floor where it remained hidden.

Though the idea of Zealandia had been around for some time it wasn’t until 2017 that a team of scientists drilled into the area below the sea to determine its validity. The crew collected 8,000 feet of sediment cores to find out more about the area, its history, and if in fact it should one day be considered earth’s eighth continent. At the time, expedition co-chief scientist Gerald Dickens of Rice University told EarthSky, the team found more than they hoped for, including significant new fossil discoveries, proving the area was once above land.

“More than 8,000 specimens were studied, and several hundred fossil species were identified,” he said. “The discovery of microscopic shells of organisms that lived in warm shallow seas, and of spores and pollen from land plants, reveal that the geography and climate of Zealandia were dramatically different in the past.”

Now, thanks to the new interactive map, people all over the globe can explore Zealandia for themselves.

Zealandia Map
GNS Science
Zealandia Map
GNS Science

“These maps are a scientific benchmark – but they’re also more than that. They’re a way of communicating our work to our colleagues, stakeholders, educators, and the public,” lead author of the maps, geologist Dr. Nick Mortimer said in a statement. “We’ve made these maps to provide an accurate, complete, and up-to-date picture of the geology of the New Zealand and southwest Pacific area — better than we have had before.”

Using the website, users can zoom and pan around different thematic geoscience web maps of the region and even generate custom maps of their own. So go ahead, explore a new area of the world and start dreaming of when you can visit its above-the-surface cousins, New Zealand and Australia, once again.

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