Science

Scientists set out to unearth facts about Zealandia, the 'lost continent'

Scientists set out to unearth facts about Zealandia, the 'lost continent'”

Scientists are attempting to unlock the secrets of the "lost continent" of Zealandia, setting sail Friday to investigate the huge underwater landmass east of Australia that has never been properly studied.

Zealandia, including today's Lord Howe Rise, was largely part of Australia until 75 million years ago, when it started to break away and move to the northeast.

Zealandia, the "lost eighth continent", is set to be fully explored for the first time.

In an interview with Nature in February, lead researcher Nick Mortimer explained that the continent would have been recognized sooner "if we could pull a plug on the world's oceans". "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's continental crust is thicker than the surrounding oceanic crust, and so it lies higher than that".

As they analyze the samples onboard, they hope to find evidence to support their theory that Zealandia is in fact a submerged continent and not just part of the ocean floor.

"This region was important in influencing global changes". In this study, researchers will use the most advanced scientific ships available in the world to drill six ocean sites between New Zealand and Australia.

Australian National University's Neville Exon said that this two-month long expedition would also help the scientists develop a better understanding of major changes in the global tectonic configuration. This movement halted about 53 million years ago. "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 expedition will answer a lot of lingering questions about Zealandia".

"What we want to understand is why and when the various stages from extension to relaxation occurred", Dickens said. "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".



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