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South Pacific landmass may have been closer to land level than once thought (theguardian.com)
56 points by jansho on Sept 28, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments



I enjoy (as humor) the articles where this is discussed as a plot by New Zealand to be declared a continent. I imagine if there were people from Pluto living among us they would be telling us how planet like Pluto is :-)

But humor aside, where do you draw the line? Nearly all of the Mojave desert in the US was clearly a sea floor based on the fossils found in its sandstone rocks. But we're not going to call it an ocean. It was an ocean, and then things moved around and now it is a desert. Zealandia was a continent but now its the seafloor around an island.

Lets say we call it a continent, does it suddenly make it all the territory of the government of New Zealand? Does that mean they control fishing and mineral rights for hundreds of kilometers beyond the shores of their island? Where does that lead?


> Lets say we call it a continent, does it suddenly make it all the territory of the government of New Zealand? Does that mean they control fishing and mineral rights for hundreds of kilometers beyond the shores of their island?

Probably, yes. France extended its EEZ last year with new evidence that the land around Kerguelen island forms an underwater "continent" as well. I imagine if this finding about Zealandia gets confirmed, both New Zealand and France (from New Caledonia) will want to extend their EEZ there as well.


More on france's extension of it's eez: https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=536dc880-b89b...

Note, the extension is from 200mi (the eez) up to 350mi -- so NZ wouldn't get the entire continental area.. and in that extended area, they only get exclusive rights to the soil and subsoil (so things like oil, etc... but no exclusive fishing rights).


And this is, I expect, all the motivation they need. I'm sure Australia will be irritated.


I was under the impression continents were roughly defined by the underlying continental plates.


yes I think that's exactly the point here, despite most of the surface being underwater the big deal is that there's a continental plate down there


As a kiwi I don't think we actually have this as an idea, but thanks for the suggestion


If you go far enough back, South America and Africa were 1 continent. Go even further and, at several times, there was only 1 continent on Earth. Go even further back and there were no continents. So maybe we should just to away with the notion of having continents in the first place.


That would be the ad absurdium argument :-). But the EEZ[1] argument is the one that is in play here. Generally the 'oceans' are international water, and what is under them is not claimed by any country.

There are economic and strategic assets here, whether it is oil or methane clathrates, fisheries, or places to establish forward operating bases, these things are 'easy' to claim in your 'own' territory and 'hard' to claim in international waters. Step 1, redefine them to not be international waters. See the South China Sea and now Zealandia ...

[1] Extended Economic Zone


Ad absurdium arguments are my favorite :)

Totally understand the implications of EEZ, but at some point you have to draw the line else the line will become increasingly more arbitrary as countries try to fuzz the boundaries of what a continent is and is not. Why does any country get to lay claim on a chunk of seafloor that has been uninhabitable for land animals far longer than humans have been around as a species?


Why does any country get to lay claim on a chunk of seafloor that has been uninhabitable for land animals far longer than humans have been around as a species?

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Convention_on_t...

It's true this is unfair to marine animals, but that's really their fault for not attending the meetings when the treaty was signed.


How cool - it's also interesting that there are a handful of massive undersea plateaus marked on one of the articles' maps.

I wonder if it'd be possible to build a sealab on one of them; it looks like there are often small atolls nearby, and it could be a good environment for testing concepts related to building and maintaining livable underwater environments.


Have you read about the US research projects?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEALAB

Things quickly get challenging with depth.


In many ways underwater is harder than outerspace.


I’d be 100% down to sign up to live in one of these.


Isn't it funny that an American journal publishes an article with Australian scientists about a continent they term Zealandia after New Zealand in turn named after a place in Holland where much of the landmass and water is currently controlled by France?

I have pity on the Chinese national geographic toponym bureau for having the tedious task of translating this for national linguistic unity.

Truly, we dwell in a post-national mire of bureaucrats! We need more solid continents!


Hmm... I don't think France controls Zeeland in Europe though. Maybe Belgium instead.

But France is still in the picture since New Caledonia also sits on the plateau of Zealandia... New Caledonia itself named after Scotland!


First we lose a planet, now we gain a continent. Is nothing I learned in Elementary school sacred?


Sharing is important.


What are the chances that this extends to Australia and is actually a part of Australia?


I'm assuming low. Just looking at the first map in the article, the one zoomed in to Australia and New Zealand... The Tasman Sea looks to obviously separate the two masses for most of what would be their shared extent.

Also, just because continents are touching, does not mean they aren't separate. Europe, Asia, and Africa are all one continuous land mass. (The Suez canal technically separated Africa from Asia, but it certainly doesn't cut through the depth of the entire continent.) And we're only one Bering Strait away from connecting all that to North and South America.


From the article: "(Zealandia)... is believed to have separated from Australlia and Antarctica, as part of Gondwana, about 80m years ago."


That makes Australia, Zealandia, and Antarctica be one continent. Since all three names are 4 syllables long, with the stress on the second, in English, perhaps it should be called Stralantarc.


Arclanstra?


Pretty crazy to me to think of continents as floating


Continents are made of light rock floating over heavy rocks. So they are floating, like ice cubes in a glass full of jelly. But continents are not floating over water.

In this case, the light rocks are no vey tick, so the thin layer of water that we call ocean can cover them. I like this image: https://goo.gl/images/aqCBJL




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