Researchers have slowly started gathering more data about Zealandia—the “lost continent” lying below the sea at depths varying from 8,000 feet to 13,000 feet.

The underwater continent of Zealandia was discovered by geologists earlier this year. A scientific paper published in the journal of the Geological Society of America described Zealandia as the Earth’s newest continent. According to scientists, this piece of land—about the size of Indian subcontinent—submerged under the sea about 60-85 million years ago. Scientists believe this continent was once above water and was attached to Australia, but later, it got separated from Australia and eventually sank in the sea.

An interesting fact about Zealandia is that the features of its crust are very much similar to that of a continental crust rather than an oceanic crust. This lost continent also includes Lord Howe Island which lies off the east coast of Australia, New

This lost continent also includes Lord Howe Island which lies off the east coast of Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia.

Scientists collected rock and sediment samples

In the past two months, researchers from the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) were busy exploring the sea just east of Australia to find more clues about Zealandia. The team has now returned, along with rock and sediment samples from the sea. During this expedition, researchers drilled into seabed at six different sites and retrieved nearly 8,200 feet of sediment cores containing hundreds of fossils of marine organisms, pollens and spores from land plants, and microscopic shells of organisms, which existed in this region millions of years ago.

Drilling was done more than 2820 feet below the sea floor—with sediment cores actually acting as time machines for the researchers.

What research says

Prof Gerald Dickens, the co-chief scientist of this expedition, revealed that his team has studied more than 8000 sediment specimens in the past two months. The analysis suggests that Zealandia was probably much shallower than its current level, and its climate and geography was completely different in the past.

There is also evidence suggesting that ecological and tectonic changes have occurred on this land across millions of years.

This research—being carried out by IODP—is expected to improve scientists’ understanding of the history of Earth. Further analysis of the sediment core would provide insight into climate history of Zealandia.

Further trips of the drilling vessel around Australian, New Zealand, Australia, and Antarctica are scheduled for next year.