NEW ZEALAND: You think you know your seven continents? Think again, as there is a new contender hoping to join that club. Say hello to Zealandia, a huge landmass almost entirely submerged in the southwest Pacific. It is not a complete stranger, you might have heard of its highest mountains, the only bits showing above water: New Zealand. Scientists say it qualifies as a continent and have now made a renewed push for it to be recognized as such. In a paper publish in the a geological magazine researchers explain that Zealandia measures five million sq km (1.9m sq miles) which is about two thirds of neighbouring Australia. Some 94% of that area is underwater with only a few islands and three major landmasses sticking out above the surface: New Zealand North and South Islands and New Caledonia. You might think being above water is crucial to making the cut as a continent, but the researchers looked at a different set of criteria, all of which are met by the new kid in town. The main author of the article, New Zealand geologist Nick Mortimer, said scientists have been researching data to make the case for Zealandia for more than two decades. “The scientific value of classifying Zealandia as a continent is much more than just an extra name on a list,” the researchers explained. “That a continent can be so submerged yet unfragmented” makes it useful for “exploring the cohesion and breakup of continental crust”.
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