Wednesday Word of the Week: Zealandia

Zealandia (zee-LAND-ee-uh) [Physical Geography]

2008-09-15_0149398.JPGNoun. Zealandia is a long, narrow microcontinent that is mostly submerged in the South Pacific Ocean. It is about half the size of Australia, but only 7 percent of it is above sea level. Most of that land makes up the two islands of the country of New Zealand. A microcontinent is a landmass that has broken off from a main continent. Zealandia broke off from Antarctica about 100 million years ago, and then from the continent of Australia about 80 million years ago.

2011-06-14_48742_spontaneous-moments.JPG

The photo above is of traditional fishing on the island of Mare in New Caledonia

Zealandia has two large islands, the North Island and the South Island, as well as Stewart Island, just south of the South Island, and many smaller islets. The collection of islands called New Caledonia, which is governed by France, makes up the northern tip of Zealandia.The topography of both islands is diverse, and the climate is mild. Both islands have mountain ranges running through their centers. The North Island is dominated by the North Island Volcanic Plateau, while the primary mountain range of the South Island is the Southern Alps. Both mountain ranges are slowly getting higher through a process called uplift, when two tectonic plates press together and push land upward.

Visit the National Geographic Education website to read the full encyclopedia entry on Zealandia. Also, check out the National Geographic Education MapMaker Interactive to enjoy hands-on exploration of the entire region surrounding Zealandia!

Photo Credits: Stéphane Ducandas (Your Shot), Carla Appel (Your Shot)

–Julia from My Wonderful World

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