COUNCIL CHRONICLE – On September 26, 32 scientists representing 12 countries returned from a nine-week voyage to explore the sunken continent of Zealandia, located in the South Pacific, have returned home by after landing in Hobart, Tasmania.
Scientists had confirmed that Zealandia was the seventh known continent only earlier this past year. Since 94 percent of the continent is over a kilometer OR 2/3 of a mileS underwater, little was known about it. The only parts above water are islands like Lord Howe Island and New Zealand itself.
Scientists Returned From First Exploration of Zealandia
Researchers part of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) are the organizers of the scientific expedition to this submerged continent. The IODP is an organization composed of researchers from 23 countries. It organizes voyages to study the rocks and sediments on the seafloor to learn about the geological history of the planet.
The explorers traveled on the research vessel “JOIDES Resolution” to survey and sample the sunken continent. Several of them drilled into the seabed at six different sites that were over 1250 meters or 4101 feet deep. They collected sediment cores that showed how the continent’s climate, geography, and vulcanism changed over the last 70 million years.
The scientists also collected 8,000 fossils and identified several hundred species. According to Dr. Gerald Dickens of Rice University in Texas, some of the fossils indicate that Zealandia was not always underwater. Some of them, for
Some of them, for example, came from land plants, while others came from creatures that lived in shallow seas. That suggests that the continent, which is about the size of India, didn’t sink beneath the waves until it separated from Antarctica and Australia some 80 million years ago.
“This expedition offered insights into Earth’s history, ranging from mountain-building in New Zealand to the shifting movements of Earth’s tectonic plates to changes in ocean circulation and global climate,” says the research team.
The researchers have a lot more research planned. They will study their currently gathered samples to learn more about the submerged continent’s climatic history, including how it was affected by climate change. Researchers also plan on studying the evolution and dispersal of plants and animals. At least one more scientific expedition is scheduled for sometime next year.
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