Scientists have defined a hidden continent called Zealandia that would be the world's eighth and smallest continent if would not be under water.
Zealandia is the continent that New Zealand sits on. Situated to the east of Australia, it is 94 per cent below the Pacific Ocean. Scientists estimated that it has an area of 4.9 million square kilometers.
According to the “Zealandia: Earth's Hidden Continent” study, the hidden continent and Australia are strikingly close to each other across the Cato Trough, off the Queensland coast. At this point, the continental crusts of Zealandia and Australia are merely 25-km apart.
Study authors wrote, “This is not a sudden discovery but a gradual realisation; as recently as 10 years ago we would not have had the accumulated data or confidence in interpretation to write this paper.”
Most of Zealandia is currently submerged and scientists estimated that it sank 60-85 million years ago. The name of the hidden continent was coined by geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk in 1995 as a shared name for New Zealand, the Chatham Rise, Lord Howe Rise and Campbell Plateau.
The scientists reported their findings in the most recent edition of the in GSA Today, a journal published by the Geological Society of America.