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Scientists set sail to explore lost continent Zealandia

Zealandia, the "lost eighth continent", is set to be fully explored for the first time.

The continent disappeared beneath the waves 75 million years ago, during the Mesozoic Era, after breaking away from Australia.

Scientists from the International Ocean Discovery Program have now set sail to investigate the underwater landmass, which covers 3 million square kilometres, extending from New Zealand up to New Caledonia.

Calling the area "Earth's hidden continent" in a paper published by the Geological Society of America, scientists hope to record how Zealandia changed over time.

The drill ship, Joides Resolution, will recover sediments and rocks lying 300 meters beneath the seafloor.

Fossil evidence will be analyzed to record how Zealandia changed over time. Sub-seafloor life, earthquake-generating zones and extreme climates will also be areas of focus.

"This region was important in influencing global changes," says co-chief scientist Jerry Dickens.

"As Australia moved north and the Tasman Sea developed, global circulation patterns changed and water depths over Zealandia fluctuated."

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