New Zealand is perched on top of a “lost continent” submerged by water, according to an eye-opening new study.
Zealandia spans 1.9 million square miles and includes New Zealand’s North and South Islands, New Caledonia and many other territories.
Despite being 94 per cent underwater, researchers say the land mass boasts all the features of a conventional continent.
“The scientific value of classifying Zealandia as a continent is much more than just an extra name on a list,” according to the study published in GSA Today.
The research reveals Zealandia separated from the ancient Gondwana super-continent around 100 million years ago.
“That a continent can be so submerged yet unfragmented makes it (useful)... in exploring the cohesion and breakup of continental crust,” the study’s authors add.
New Zealand and New Caledonia are normally grouped with Australia as Australasia.
Nick Mortimer, the study’s lead author, has spent more than two decades gathering evidence for the continent’s recognition.
“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 told TVNZ.
There is no scientific body to formally recognise continents but Mortimer hopes Zealandia will soon appear on maps and an in geography lessons.
“I think the revelation of a new continent is pretty exciting,” he added.