Now the maps reveal new explorations of the underwater continent where dinosaurs once roamed – and allow the public to practically explore it.
People around the world can explore the continent from their homes; the interactive website displays different types of Zealand, which users can layer and modify to their liking. For example, you can find all the ancient and modern volcanoes on the continent or see where on the mainland they are still spreading.
“These maps are a scientific yardstick – but they are also more than that. They are the way we communicate to colleagues, stakeholders, teachers and the public through our work,” said geologist Dr. Nick Mortimer, lead author of the map book, in the edition.
“We made these maps to provide an accurate, complete and up-to-date picture of the geology of New Zealand and the Southwest Pacific – better than we had before.”
How the continent sank
The idea of a potential continent in this area has been around for some time, and the name “Zealandia” was first coined by geophysicist Bruce Luyendyk in 1995.
A dedicated study of the area, which spans about 5 million square kilometers (about 1.93 million square miles), found that not only is the group of continental islands and fragments, but also the continental crust large enough and separate to be officially declared a separate continent.
Zealand was once part of Gondwana, a supercontinent that once held many of the continents we know today, such as Africa and South America.
About 85 million years ago, Zealand separated from Gondwana. The floating, moving land mass, about half of Australia, was home to dinosaurs and lush rainforests.
Then, millions of years later, the world’s tectonic plates – pieces of the Earth’s crust – began to reorganize, in a period of dramatic geological changes created by the Pacific “ring of fire”, a belt in the Pacific Ocean where the world’s most active volcanoes are located.
About 94% of Zealand is now submerged – but some parts of the continent are still above the mainland, made up of New Zealand and other small islands. Zealand’s highest point is Aoraki – Mount Cook at 3,724 meters (12,218 feet).
There are still many unknowns about the continent and whether the discovery of Zealand can change historical climate models. As more research emerges, the interactive website and maps will be updated to reflect what we know, GNS Science said.