Zealandia, a for the most part underwater landmass in the South Pacific, was declared the Earth’s newest continent and after a nine-week voyage to study the lost, submerged continent, the team of 32 scientists may have actually discovered Zealandia.

The latest discovery follows a February announcement that the mostly submerged land just east of Australia qualified as a continent. The boot-shaped region, about the size of greater India, contains New Zealand and New Caledonia, an island to the north. About 94% of Zealandia is underwater. A team of 32 scientists from 12 countries recently took a nine-week voyage to study the continent’s geography, volcanic history, past climates and previous life forms. And they returned with success! Yes!

Scientists identified more than 8,000 specimens and several hundred fossils by drilling ice cores, they discovered microscopic shells of organisms that lived in warm, shallow seas, and spores and pollen from land plants – signs indicating Zealandia was likely much shallower than it is now. Although researchers aren’t exactly sure how Zealandia split from Australia but know it broke off about 40 to 50 million years ago. But it is basically a sunken continent long lost beneath the oceans, is giving up its 60 million-year-old secrets through scientific ocean drilling. This expedition offered insights into Earth’s history, ranging from mountain-building in New Zealand to the shifting movements of Earth’s tectonic plates to changes in ocean circulation and global climate.

The team drilled deep into the seabed at six sites in water depths of more than 1,250 meters (4,101 feet). They collected 2,500 meters (8,202 feet) of sediment cores from layers that record how the geography, volcanism and climate of Zealandia have changed over the last 70 million years. Further studies of the sediment cores drilled during the latest expedition will focus on understanding how Earth’s tectonic plates move and the inner workings of the global climate system.

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