February 25, 2013 – AFRICA – Scientists believe they’ve discovered the remains of a lost continent on the floor of the Indian Ocean, off Africa. The research team from Norway, South Africa, Germany and the UK identified the ancient “microcontinent” after analysing beach sands from the island of Mauritius. They believe Mauritius was split from the larger island of Madagascar, 900 kilometres to the west, by volcanic eruptions between 61 and 84 million years ago.
The beach sands were deposited by subsequent eruptions within the last nine million years. But the analysis found a smattering of zircon grains up to 2 billion years old, suggesting the recent volcanoes had spewed out fragments of an ancient continental crust. They believe the micro-continent, which they have christened “Mauritia”, may also lie beneath Réunion Island and the Seychelles.
The discovery helps explain the origin of the Seychelles, which have “long been considered a geological peculiarity”, the team reports in the journal Nature Geoscience. “The Indian Ocean could be littered with continental fragments, but the extent of continental crust remains speculative because these fragments have been obscured by hotspot-related volcanism.”
While the study involved modern techniques – including plate tectonic reconstructions and analysis of gravity and marine geophysical data – it reflects an ancient fascination with lost continents. The story of Atlantis, which supposedly lay in the Atlantic Ocean west of Spain and Morocco, has its origins in two dialogues by the philosopher Plato in 355 BC.
Rumors of new lands abounded from the 15th century, as Portuguese, Spanish and Italian navigators pushed the boundaries of the known world. “Hi-Brazil,” which reportedly lay west of Ireland and was inhabited by large black rabbits, survived on maps for centuries. The scientists in the latest study promise a more rigorous approach. “Critical to furthering our tale of lost continents are deep drilling, acquisition of high-quality seismic refraction data … coupled with geochemistry, geochronology and plate reconstructions,” they report. –The Australian
- Parts of ancient continent found (bbc.co.uk)
- Lost Land Beneath the Waves (news.sciencemag.org)
- Long-lost continent found under the Indian Ocean (nature.com)
- Fragments of continents hidden under lava in Indian Ocean: New micro-continent detected under Reunion and Mauritius (sciencedaily.com)
- Found: Prehistoric Indian Ocean mini-continent (business.inquirer.net)
- Lost land beneath the waves? (sott.net)
- Fragments of Continents Hidden Under Lava in Indian Ocean (zen-haven.com)
- Scientists discover traces of lost mini-continent in the Indian Ocean (rawstory.com)