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Scientists drilled into Earth's missing Zealandia continent to see what happened
Featured Image Credit: GNS Science Getty Stock Photo

Scientists drilled into Earth's missing Zealandia continent to see what happened

The 2017 study provided some surprising results surrounding Zealandia

While we may know an awful lot about the planet we live on, there are certainly many things we are yet to figure out.

One particular area that is somewhat of an unknown to many is the deep oceans of the South Pacific - particularly in the waters surrounding New Zealand.

Scientists discovered a new continent called Zealandia - or Te Riu-a-Māui, in the Māori dialect - in 2017, the planet's seventh continent, with the majority of it lying just a kilometre under water.

First came the discovery, then followed in-depth research by a group of scientists to try and unpack the continent's secrets.

To get these answers, a team of 32 scientists from 12 different countries drilled into the rock and studied what they found.

Zealandia, Earth's seventh contient.
Ulrich Lange/Wikimedia Commons

Jamie Allan, program director in the US National Science Foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences, the team leading the 2017 project, said: "Zealandia, a sunken continent long lost beneath the oceans, is giving up its 60 million-year-old secrets through scientific ocean drilling.

"This expedition offered insights into Earth's history, ranging from mountain-building in New Zealand to the shifting movements of Earth's tectonic plates to changes in ocean circulation and global climate."

The ambitious plan was part of a nine-week voyage which saw researchers drill deep into a seabed to sample rocks that make up the seventh continent.

At six separate sites, the team bored down at depths of 1,250 meters and collected a whopping 2,500 meters worth of sediment and rock samples.

It was certainly a digging mission.
Getty Stock Photo

To keep the science relatively simple, the voyage recorded how the geology, volcanism, and climate on Zealandia has changed over the last 70 million years.

The results from the 2017 study were actually quite surprising, indicating Earth's seventh continent had a very different past.

Researchers found the remains of hundreds of fossils, covering a wide array of species that thrive in all different types of settings and climates.

It hinted that part of Zealandia is rather different to the subaquatic environment we all know about today.

Rupert Sutherland, co-author of the study, said at the time: "Big geographic changes across northern Zealandia, which is about the same size as India, have implications for understanding questions such as how plants and animals dispersed and evolved in the South Pacific.

"The discovery of past land and shallow seas now provides an explanation. There were pathways for animals and plants to move along."

Topics: Science, World News