This was really big geology news when it first broke out a week ago. Our planet has been hiding a new continent called Zealandia that remained undiscovered even through antiquity. Well, it’s not new since it’s an old continent that got sunk and the name was only recently given since it’s near New Zealand. What is less known about the new discovery is how the large continent got sunk and what it bodes to other continents existing, and what this means to countries living on such large rocks. New continent Zealandia roughly spans 1.9 million square miles (4.9 million square kilometers) and is already 95 percent underwater. This discovery is already astounding given that it is estimated that the submerged continent is more than a half-century in age. What is ironic is that the geological discovery would not have occurred had it not been for a search for natural resources.
The name “Zealandia” and calling it a continent is mostly for scientific interest and a formality. The area is already known to be rich in gas, oil, and other minerals, making the continent a haven of economic benefits, but what is amazing is that past geological surveys failed to establish the continent discovery. For Commonwealth country New Zealand and French Territory New Caledonia, both appeared surprised that their land mass is only part of the beginning of the large part of the continental crust, a mostly vast, unexplored, and extreme frontier that is reminiscent of the untold mysteries of the Indian Ocean. The discovery has its roots back in the 1960’s when New Zealand would begin geological studies for offshore drilling. Actual drilling only began in the 1970’s and ever since then, oil production has become New Zealand’s flagship economic carrier. The country’s crude oil production is equivalent to 30 percent of the total US output, a significant economic boom for the small island nation.
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The Commonwealth of New Zealand now pulls in around $100 million in annual royalties. What oil prospectors and geologists failed to put together was that most drilling samples from the ocean bottom were producing rocks continental in nature. Focused mostly on finding oil rather than a new continent, they failed to study the evidence more deeply that the rocks were evidence of larger tracts of continental crust hidden on the ocean bottom. According to Bruce Luyendyk, a geophysicist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, he actually began looking at all the collected data from the drilling beginning as far back as 1995 and coined the term “Zealandia.” Luyendyk never intended the term ‘Zealandia’ to be a new continent’s name. Rather, he used it to describe New Zealand, New Caledonia, and the growing number of submerged chunks of crust that he thought broke off a region of Gondwana, a 200 million-year-old supercontinent. Never in his wildest imaginations did he realize that what he was studying was actually a bigger and whole continent at the ocean’s bottom.