How many continents are there in the world? It looks like answering this question is harder than we thought. For many years, there’s been a hot debate on the number of continents we have on earth. Geographers, Geologists, Geophycists, and scientists alike seem not to agree on exactly how many continents we have. In North America, students are taught that there are 7 seven continents, namely;Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Oceania/Australia, and Antarctica. In Europe, however, students learn that there are six continents, Asia, Africa, America, Europe, Australia /Oceania, and Antarctica. There’s also a five continent model which says that the only continents are; Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Antartica. There are also some experts who believes that there are just four continents.

Map of the world

In 2017, however, some group of scientists, known as GNS, discovered yet another continent_Zealandia also known as Te Riu-a-Māui

Zealandia as we now know is a continent that is submerged almost completely underwater. 94 % of Zealandia is submerged in water, and only 6% of it’s land is visible. The visible land areas includes the islands of New Zealand, New Caledonia, Austrailia’s Lord Howe island, and ball pyramids. Zealandia has a total area of 4.9 million sq kilometers. It’s about two-thirds the size of Australia, and it is about six times the size of Madagascar.

Even though GNS, the leading research group, made the announcement about Zealandia recently, the theory of an eighth continent isn’t new. In 1642 Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer, made a voyage to find a “southern continent”. Though his voyage didn’t end well, he discovered Zealandia, and laid the ground work for further research centuries later.

In 1995, Bruce Luyendyk claimed the existence of Zealandia. He also coined the name Zealandia. After 20 years of extensive research on Zealandia’s crust some Geologists have come to the conclusion that Zealandia is a continent because of the following reasons;

  • It is a continuous, large mass of land.
  • Its crust contains rocks of different types akin to those of a continent.
  • Its crust is thicker than that of the ocean seabed.
  • It has an elevation above the surrounding oceanic crusts, and it has a well defined surrounding limit.

According to Nick Mortimer, a geologist for GNS, “It is logical to conclude that Zealandia is a continent”. Mortimer also suggests that a thin crust of Land separates New Zealand, and Australia, and because of that, they are different continents.

Sadly, Zealandia won’t be included in maps anytime soon. Because there’s no committee to designate new continents, GNS will have to convince other geologists that Zealandia is truly a continent. Supporters of this theory will also have to use the name Zealandia, until it catches on globally.


Continents are therefore defined by convention rather than a strict criteria. The criteria used can be of geographical, historical, cultural, anthropological, political, or even of philosophical nature, according to worldometer. Because of this loose definition, we can’t say with conviction, how many continents there are.

If I may ask you, how many continents are in the world? Share your answer in the comment section.



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