Chunk of an ancient supercontinent discovered under New Zealand
The hidden fragment, dating as old as 1.3 billion years, is helping scientists trace the history of the mysterious “lost continent” of Zealandia.
As the California heat blazed outside in the summer of 2018, Rose Turnbull sat in the cool confines of a windowless basement sorting through grains of fine sand. A geologist based in New Zealand, Turnbull was in a colleague’s lab at California State University, Northridge, trying to find tiny crystals of zircon, which she hoped would help unravel secrets of the mysterious eighth continent of Zealandia, also known by its Māori name Te Riu-a-Māui.
The task required a practiced hand and a bit of elbow grease—or rather, nose grease. Turnbull demonstrates over Zoom, raising the closed tweezers to the outside of her nose to pick up a bit of oil, which prevents the grains from zinging across the room