Once upon a time, there was Gondwana, a supercontinent that sunk as a result of a massive super-slow earthquake. The significant tectonic event created a new world. Today’s Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, and Arabia were part of Gondwana. Scientists found that part of the same former continent was Zealandia, a lost continent of 4.9 million square kilometers. It is almost entirely submerged in the southern Pacific Ocean. About 85 million years ago, Gondwana sunk and Zealandia broke away from it.
Zealandia’s modern history
Zealandia was first discovered in 1972 just next to Australia. For 23 years, scientists have debated whether it is a continent or just a piece of a landmass. In 1995, they recognized its continental statute and named it Zealandia. Today, after drilling as deep as five kilometers, researchers could study samples of sediment cores taken from those depths.
The studies proved Zealandia to be much more than a microcontinent. We know now that it was part of a bigger truth: Gondwana, the vast drowned continent. Zealandia seems to have broken away from Gondwana about 85 million years ago. The tectonic movement in the Earth’s outer shell made Zealandia also sank underwater about 66 million years ago. It made room for the New Zealand and New Caledonia islands to emerge. They are the highest areas of former Zealandia, and they remained above the water when it submerged.
Lost continent of Zealandia was part of the Gondwana supercontinent
The subduction rupture event that took down Gondwana also created the Pacific Ring of Fire. That is a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, volcanic belts, and plates. It has more than 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes, for example.
About 90% of the world’s earthquakes and about 81% of the world’s most massive earthquakes occur along the Pacific Ring of Fire. It is known that the “Ring” was created due to tectonic movements, but it is still a huge blind spot in the scientific understanding of how that happened.