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Volume 27 Issue 3 (March/April 2017)

GSA Today

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Article, pp. 27–35 | Full Text | PDF (450KB)

Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent

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Nick Mortimer1, Hamish J. Campbell2, Andy J. Tulloch1, Peter R. King2, Vaughan M. Stagpoole2, Ray A. Wood2, Mark S. Rattenbury2, Rupert Sutherland3, Chris J. Adams1, Julien Collot4, Maria Seton5

1 GNS Science, Private Bag 1930, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
2 GNS Science, P.O. Box 30368, Lower Hutt 5040, New Zealand
3 SGEES, Victoria University of Wellington, P.O. Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
4 Service Géologique de Nouvelle Calédonie, B.P. 465, Nouméa 98845, New Caledonia
5 School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia


A 4.9 Mkm2 region of the southwest Pacific Ocean is made up of continental crust. The region has elevated bathymetry relative to surrounding oceanic crust, diverse and silica-rich rocks, and relatively thick and low-velocity crustal structure. Its isolation from Australia and large area support its definition as a continent—Zealandia. Zealandia was formerly part of Gondwana. Today it is 94% submerged, mainly as a result of widespread Late Cretaceous crustal thinning preceding supercontinent breakup and consequent isostatic balance. The identification of Zealandia as a geological continent, rather than a collection of continental islands, fragments, and slices, more correctly represents the geology of this part of Earth. Zealandia provides a fresh context in which to investigate processes of continental rifting, thinning, and breakup.

Manuscript received 12 Sept. 2016; Revised manuscript received 19 Dec. 2016; Manuscript accepted 21 Dec. 2016; Posted online 9 Feb. 2017