Scientists discover new continent near Australia

Daphne Iosua '25, Staff Reporter

In school, we are taught that there are seven continents, however lying beneath the surface of the southwest Pacific Ocean is a mysterious eighth continent. 

Called Zealandia, 94 percent of its land is underwater with just a few islands peeking out. 

Despite being underwater, rock samples show that Zealandia is made up of granite, limestone, and sandstone which is typical of continental crust, whereas the surrounding oceanic crust is primarily made of basaltic rocks.

Very different from the other continents, Zealandia breaks the records for the smallest, thinnest, and youngest continent in the world. It is only 1.89 million square miles, and for comparison North America is just over 9.5 million square miles. 

It is also quite thin. Continental crust is considered to be around 40km deep, and Zealandia only extends 20km down.

For an interactive timeline map of the continents, click on this image.

Scientists believe that Zealandia was once part of the former supercontinent of Gondwana where it bordered half of western Antarctica and eastern Australia. Slowly around 105 million years ago it drifted away from those two and was stretched so thinly to the point where it sank.

Despite all this Zealandia is quite different from any other continent and many do not believe that Zealandia as a continent, but rather as another plateau or something of a “dwarf continent” like Pluto. 

Earth and Space teacher Stephanie Lee said, “a continent is a land mass above water,” and she wouldn’t consider Zealandia a continent. 

Zealandia, the eighth continent, while an interesting idea, is not likely to appear in classrooms and media, instead hiding beneath the surface.