You may have read recently that a group of eminent geologists now believe there is a land mass that should be regarded as the earth’s eighth continent, based on scientific studies of the nature of its continental crust.
They’ve dubbed it Zealandia, partially because it includes the island nation of New Zealand in the western Pacific.
The term “Zealandia” was actually coined back in 1995 to describe a number of islands in the region (of which New Zealand’s three main islands are the largest) and what were believed to be submerged fragments of continental crust that broke off from Australia in the distant past.
Now the evidence is that Zealandia is all one big piece stretching from north of Antarctica almost all the way to the east coast of Oz. That would make it its own continent, albeit the world’s smallest.
The real rub is that about 95 percent of the “new” continent is underwater — which explains why scientists have been so slow to recognize its true nature.
How Does This Impact Baby Boomer Travel?
I admit that I’m less interested in the scientific ramifications of this discovery as I am in its travel implications.
So here are some answers to the FAQs that have been pouring into my office since this news broke:
Question: We baby boomers learned in school that there were seven continents. I’ve traveled to what I thought were all seven continents. Now they’re telling us there are eight? They’ve already been playing with whether or not Pluto is the ninth planet or some over-hyped asteroid — is nothing sacred?
Answer: The answer to your question is no, nothing is sacred. But the real subtext of your question is “Do I need to travel to New Zealand now to say I’ve been to all the continents?” The answer is: yes and no. There’s no official world body to declare what is and what is not a continent, so we’ll have to wait and see what the majority of seventh grade geography teachers decide when they prepare their pop quizzes. That is, if they still teach geography in seventh grade — I have a feeling maybe they don’t.
Question: I’ve heard that some of these same geographers think Europe and Asia should count as only one continent, “Eurasia,” since they’re both part of one land mass. So, if Zealandia is indeed a continent, and Eurasia is another, that means there’s still just seven continents, right?
Answer: According to my seventh grade math teacher, that would be correct. But you’d still need to go to Zealandia to say you’ve been to all seven continents, if that’s what you’re wondering. .
Question: I’ve been to New Zealand, but want to sample what else Zealandia has to offer as a travel destination. Can you advise?
Answer: According to the newly organized Zealandia Tourist Promotion Authority, popular pastimes include swimming, snorkeling, Scuba diving, sailing, cruising, fishing, underwater photography, and communing with sharks . Above-water bungalows are much in demand for lodging but securing the stilts has proved problematic.
Question: Is Zealandia actually Atlantis?
Answer: We’ll have to wait for the upcoming Travel Channel documentary “Is Zealandia Actually Atlantis?” to find out, but I certainly like to think so.
Question: I’m prone to seasickness. Should I consider a transcontinental crossing of Zealandia?
Question: What’s the reaction to this news been in New Zealand? Are they happy about it?
Answer: Based on my experience, Kiwis won’t be happy until scientists declare that Zealandia’s a continent and Australia isn’t — but at least this is a start.