Even after all this time, humans are still discovering Earth’s mysteries and hidden treasures. For example, recently, scientists found a new continent! Scientists had long believed that the long-lost land, named Zealandia, had been a myth. Now, it’s no longer just a story…
Abel Tasman And The New Continent
Believe it or not, humans might have actually seen the mysterious continent of Zealandia before it dove under the waves. In fact, Dutch sailor and explorer Abel Tasman almost step foot on it back in 1642. That’s right! He actually went on a mission to find and map the continent, thinking it somehow “balanced out” the parcels of the land to the north. At the time, Tasman, his crew, and other explorers called the continent Terra Australis.
Sadly, after Tasman sailed from Jakarta to the South Island of New Zealand, he found only tragedy. First, the sailor struggled to interact with the locals, the Māori people, as they did not want to see strangers on their land. Later, four of his crew died. In the end, Tasman left for home. He had not discovered Zealandia and would never return to the southern waters. However, while Tasman might have considered himself a failure, others would later pick up where he left off.
Later, in 1895, Scottish naturalist Sir James Hector became the next brilliant mind to become fascinated by Zealandia. In fact, one of the earliest recorded descriptions of the land came from him! That year he visited the islands near New Zealand. That’s when the scientist realized that Zealand is “the remnant of a mountain-chain that formed the crest of a great continental area that stretched far to the south and east, and which is now submerged.”
Incredibly, the long-lost piece of land would not make another appearance in serious scientific communities until 2017! That’s when geologists started to find evidence that the continent of Zealandia might have actually existed! Until then, most had begun to consider the land nothing but a myth. “This is an example of how something very obvious can take a while to uncover,” says Andy Tulloch, a geologist at the New Zealand Crown Research Institute GNS Science. “Things happen pretty slowly in this field.” He’s one of the many teammates working on these new and exciting discoveries! Now, after all these years, research on the long-lost continent has begun in earnest.
Research on Zealandia
Thanks to recent research and data from ever-evolving satellites, geologists and geographers have started to map the mass around New Zealand, now known as the continent of Zealandia. Currently, teams are working to determine what kind of rocks make up this part of the continental crust. And there’s still so much to learn about Zealandia!
“It’s quite hard to make discoveries, when everything is 2km (1.2 miles) underwater, and the layers that you need to sample are 500m (1,640ft) beneath the seabed as well,” said Tulloch. “It’s really challenging to go out and explore a continent like that. So, it just takes a lot of time, money and effort to go out and ships and survey regions.” However, the team remains hopeful, and so do we!