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30 July 2017

All you need to know about sunken lost continent

Scientists are searching for the lost continent of Zealandia off the east coast of Australia.

SCIENTISTS have set sail on a mission to uncover the secrets of the “lost continent” of Zealandia off the east coast of Australia.

This gigantic landmass disappeared beneath the waves 75 million years ago — and has never been explored.

We know the dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago, so there is every chance scientists will find something totally unexpected in this drowned world.

It was originally part of the gigantic super-continent Gondwana, which was made up of many of the continents which now exist in the southern hemisphere.

Covering five million square kilometres, it extends from south of New Zealand northward to New Caledonia and west to the Kenn Plateau off Australia’s east coast.

Drill ship Joides Resolution will recover sediments and rocks lying deep beneath the sea bed in a bid to discover how the region has behaved during the past tens of millions of years.

The recovered cores will be studied on-board, allowing scientists to address issues such as oceanographic history, extreme climates, sub-sea floor life, plate tectonics and earthquake-generating zones.

Co-chief scientist Jerry Dickens, from Rice University in Texas, said the region was a vital area to study changes in global climate.

The drill ship Joides Resolution at sea. Picture: Australian National University

The drill ship Joides Resolution at sea. Picture: Australian National UniversitySource:AFP

The expedition to help solve mystery of underwater continent near Australia is under way. Picture: GSA Today

The expedition to help solve mystery of underwater continent near Australia is under way. Picture: GSA TodaySource:Supplied

“As Australia moved north and the Tasman Sea developed, global circulation patterns changed and water depths over Zealandia fluctuated,” he said.

“This region was important in influencing global changes.”

In a paper published in February in the Geological Society of America’s Journal GSA Today, researchers also made the case that it should be considered a new continent.

They said it was a distinct geological entity that met all the criteria applied to Earth’s other continents, including elevation above the surrounding area, distinctive geology, a well-defined area and a crust much thicker than that found on the ocean floor.

Australian National University’s Neville Exon said the two-month expedition, setting out last Friday from Townsville, would also help better understand major changes in the global tectonic configuration that started about 53 million years ago.

Gerald Dickens, co-chief scientist.

Gerald Dickens, co-chief scientist.Source:News Corp Australia

This is around the time that the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a hotspot for volcanoes and earthquakes, came into existence.

In the February scientific paper, lead author Nick Mortimer said experts had been gathering data to make the case for Zealandia being a continent for more than 20 years.

But their efforts had been frustrated because most of it was hidden beneath the waves.

“If we could pull the plug on the oceans, it would be clear to everybody that we have mountain chains and a big, high-standing continent,” he said at the time.

It follows the discovery of a gigantic “lost continent” called Mauritia hidden beneath the island of Mauritius.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and is republished with permission..

Scientists focus on tectonic plates to unravel geographic history, and have now published the first whole-Earth plate tectonic map from the last half a billion years.

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