'Lost continent' found under island in Indian Ocean

A group of researchers headed by Wits University geologist Professor Lewis Ashwal have revealed that a lost continent is buried under the island of Mauritius. It's all geology, no mystic civilization. Lewis D. Ashwal, the author of the study, in a Wits University writeup. "However, by studying the rocks on the island, we have found zircons that are as old as 3 billion years". They said the landmass - dubbed Mauritia - was left over after the Gondwana supercontinent split about 200 to 300 million years ago. "It's only now as we explore more of the deep oceans that we're finding all these bits of ancient continents around the place".

"Earth is made up of two parts - continents, which are old, and oceans, which are "young".

He said this was not the first time that zircons that were billions of years old had been found on the island. The rest of the continent probably sank beneath the sea 84 million years ago. While most of the island is younger than 9 million years, the researchers found some samples that were more than 3 billion years old. These chunks would have contained zircon and though the chunks themselves disintegrated when they came into contact with the lava from the undersea volcanos, the mineral survived and ended up being embedded in the cooling magma, which eventually formed the rocks that make up present-day Mauritius's surface. Though Mauritius is about 8 million years old, they found zircon crystals from the island's beaches that were almost 2 billion years old, suggesting that volcanic eruptions could have ejected these pieces of ancient rock from the sunken continent below.

Mauritius: 3 billion-year-old lost continent Mauritia discovered
Crystals carried in lava reveal a hidden continent

"We propose here that Mauritius and other Mauritian continental fragments are dominantly underlain by Archaean continental crust, and that these originally formed part of the ancient nucleus of Madagascar and India", they said in their study. But we're not just talking about any rocks, we're looking at those containing zircon. Image here is taken through a petrographic microscope, cross-polarized light.

Mauritia isn't the worlds only old continent, with further evidence found near Iceland and off Western Australia. And the researchers arrived at their conclusion by studying zircons - a mineral found mainly in granites from continents - found in Mauritius. The existing evidence is in the trace evidence of zircons found on Mauritius - which are way too old to be part of an island created out of relatively-new volcanic activity.

  • Tracy Ferguson