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Junior Taamas
, Nigeria.
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We probably pay less attention than we
should to the continents on Earth. How many
are there anyway? Seven? Well! That depends
on what you were taught in school. The word
“continent” has no definite meaning, and
countries recognize from four to seven
continents.

Most countries need to update their books
soon because there is an extra continent
right underneath the island nation of New
Zealand. They will also need to add another
continent when Africa splits into two. And
they would have added an extra one if North
America had successfully split into two
continents and stayed that way.

10. Africa Is Splitting In Two



Africa sits on two tectonic plates. Most
African nations sit on the African Plate,
which is often called the Nubian Plate to
avoid confusion. However, several East
African nations sit on the Somali Plate. Both
plates are currently moving and slowly
tearing Africa apart.

Evidence of the split is visible in Kenya,
where it has created a deep and long valley
called Kenya’s Rift Valley. It is part of several
valleys called the East African Rift. The
valleys randomly appear along a 2,900-
kilometer-long (1,800 mi) region directly on
the area where both plates meet.

East Africa will break away to become a new
continent when they finally separate. For
now, they have caused a series of
earthquakes and volcanic activities as they
move farther apart.

On March 19, 2018, the movement of the
plates even caused a crack in Kenya that was
15 meters wide (50 ft) and several miles
long. However, some sources say that this
valley was actually caused by soil erosion
and not the movement of tectonic plates.

There is no reason to fret, though. The split
is a slow one, and it will be millions of years
before Africa finally breaks up.

9. Antarctica Is Supposed To Be Called Australia



For centuries, scientists, explorers , and
geographers predicted the existence of a
continent in the southern hemisphere. They
called this continent terra australis incognita
(“unknown southern land”). Australis itself
means “southern.” No one was sure if the
continent existed, but they believed it did
because the Arctic existed up north.

In 1627, the Dutch landed on today’s
Australia. They sailed around the northern,
western, and southern coasts of the
continent and named it New Holland. The
British would later land on the eastern coast,
which they called New South Wales.

Curiously, no one realized that they were
dealing with the same continent. Early
explorers thought that New Holland and New
South Wales were different continents
separated by a strait. It wasn’t until 1803
that Matthew Flinders circumnavigated New
Holland and New South Wales and revealed
that they were different areas of the same
continent.

In 1814, Flinders released the map of the
continent, which he called “Terra Australis.”
However, he suggested that “Terra Australis”
should be shortened to the better-sounding
“Australia.” The name stuck.

Antarctica was discovered by Charles Wilkes
of the US on January 19, 1840. It was named
Antarctica because its intended name, Terra
Australis, was already taken. Antarctica was
coined from the Roman translation of the
Greek antarktike, which basically means
“anti-Arctic” or “opposite the Arctic.”

8. There Are From Four To
Seven Continents Depending On Whom You Ask




There is no agreed definition of what is
considered a continent. Ideally, single
masses of land on the same tectonic plate
should be considered a continent. However,
this is not used because India and the
Arabian peninsula have individual tectonic
plates not shared with other Asian nations,
even though they are considered parts of
Asia.

The more common method is geopolitics. For
this reason, Europe and Asia are considered
different continents even though they lie on
the same tectonic plate and are not
separated by an ocean. The problems with
defining a continent explain why we have
from four to seven continents today.

The seven-continent model—which is mostly
taught in China, Pakistan , India, and English-
speaking countries—lists the continents as
Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia (or
sometimes, Oceania), Europe, North America,
and South America. The six-continent model
—which is taught in France, Spain, and other
parts of Europe—mirrors the seven-
continent model except that North and South
America are considered the same continent
called America.

Japanese and Eastern European schools also
teach a six-continent model. However, they
consider North and South America as
different continents. Meanwhile, Europe and
Asia are lumped into a single continent
called Eurasia.

The United Nations uses a five-continent
model that recognizes Africa, America,
Antarctica, Australia, and Eurasia. There is
also the four-continent model that considers
Africa, Europe, and Asia as a single continent
called Afro-Eurasia. The three other
continents are America, Antarctica, and
Australia.

7. New Zealand Lies On A Separate Continent



New Zealand is often lumped with Australia
to form Oceania, which also includes several
other Pacific islands. However, New Zealand
has been confirmed to lie on its own
continent called Zealandia. We just do not
get to see it because 94 percent is
underwater. The other 6 percent consists of
several island nations and territories
including New Zealand and New Caledonia.

Zealandia measures about 4.9 million square
kilometers (1.9 million mi ), which makes it
two-thirds the size of Australia. Researchers
believe that Zealandia went underwater 80
million years ago after it broke off from a
larger supercontinent called Gondwana .

However, Zealandia could not keep its head
above water and soon went under.
Nevertheless, it is unlikely that most models
will add this extra continent anytime soon.

There is no international organization to
declare the existence of continents, so
individual nations will need to determine
what they teach in their schools.

6. Greenland Is Part Of North America



Greenland is an autonomous region of the
Kingdom of Denmark. Denmark, a
neighboring nation, is also part of the
Kingdom of Denmark. While Denmark is
located in Europe, Greenland is located in
North America even though it is often
considered a part of Europe.

Some sources even list it as a
transcontinental country—that is, a country
that is split between two continents.
Greenland is a part of North America
because it sits on the North American
tectonic plate which is shared by several
North American nations, including the US
and Canada.

Greenland’s relationship with North America
goes further than just tectonic plates. North
American migrants were the earliest cultures
to settle in Greenland. This included the
Paleo-Eskimo tribes that arrived in Greenland
in the 26th century BC and the Saqqaq
people that lived there from the 25th
century BC until the ninth century BC.
Later settlers included the Dorset, the
Independence I, and the Independence II
cultures, which all migrated from Canada. In
fact, the current natives of Greenland are
the Kalaallit people, who migrated from
North America in the 13th century.

However, Greenland was named by the first
Europeans who arrived in AD 986. The
migrants had fled Iceland where they were
being persecuted by the king of Norway.

They called the island “Groenland” as part of
a ploy to attract new settlers to the region.

Continue reading below

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Junior Taamas
, Nigeria.
5. Antarctica Is The World’s Largest Desert

Although we often consider Antarctica as a
barren wasteland covered in ice, it is
actually a desert. This is because deserts are
not determined by higher-than-normal
temperatures and lots of sand. Instead, a
desert has everything to do with
precipitation, the amount of water the area
receives from the atmosphere.

An area is considered a desert if it loses
more water than it receives from the
atmosphere . The water can be delivered as
rain, snow, mist, fog, etc. At the same time,
the area must receive less than 250
millimeters (9.8 in) of water from the
atmosphere per year. Antarctica receives less
than 51 millimeters (2 in) of water annually
in its innermost areas.

Besides being the largest desert on Earth,
Antarctica also contains the driest place on
the planet. Rain, snow, or ice has not fallen
in the aptly named 4,800-square-kilometer
(1,900 mi ) Dry Valleys in two million years.
Winds from nearby mountains contain lots of
water but are so heavy with moisture that
gravity pulls them away from the Dry
Valleys.

4. No One Knows Where The Border Is Between Europe And Asia

We already mentioned that Europe and Asia
are actually on the same physical continent,
although they are considered to be separate
continents from a geopolitical standpoint.

There is no sea bordering them, and most
nations in both Europe and Asia lie on the
same tectonic plates. However, India lies on
the Indian Plate, several Arab nations lie on
the Arabian Plate, and parts of Russia lie on
the North American Plate.

Today, no one knows where the actual
border is between Europe and Asia. The de
facto border created by Philip Johan Von
Strahlenberg, an explorer and officer of the
Swedish army, goes through the Aegean Sea
and down the Caspian Sea, past the Turkish
Strait, Black Sea, and Greater Caucasus
before terminating in the Ural River and Ural
Mountains.

However, this and several other
considerations are controversial. Several
nations have often ended on the other
continent or right at the border between
both continents. For instance, Strahlenberg’s
border puts 75 percent of Russian citizens in
Europe even though Russia is considered an
Asian nation.

Other suggestions have caused problems for
nations like Cyprus, which ended up in Asia
even though it is considered a European
nation. Georgia has also ended up in Europe
and sometimes right at the border between
Europe and Asia even though it is considered
an Asian nation. This is why geographers
often lump Europe and Asia into Eurasia.

3. Every Map You Have Been Reading Is Wrong

Maps can never be accurate. Every map you
have been reading is wrong because they are
often made in 2-D even though the world is
in 3-D. The Earth is not a perfect sphere, so
it is nearly impossible to create a map of the
Earth on a rectangular sheet of paper.

As a result, 2-D maps cannot depict the real
size of continents and simultaneously
maintain the correct longitude and latitude.

Cartographers believe that the longitude and
latitude lines are more important, so they
opt to distort the size of the continents
instead. This is commonly seen in the
Mercator Map, which is the most common
map out there.

The Mercator Map depicts North America as
a larger continent than Africa. Greenland is
almost the same size as Africa, and Alaska is
larger than Brazil. India also looks
notoriously small even though it is larger.
Meanwhile, Antarctica appears larger than it
really is.

In truth, Africa is three times bigger than
North America and 14 times larger than
Greenland. Africa is so large that the US,
India, China, Japan, and the whole of Europe
will fit in it with space left over. Brazil is five
times bigger than Alaska, and India is three
times larger than Scandinavia.

2. North America Almost Split In Two

Africa is not alone in possessing a rift valley.
North America also has the Midcontinental
Rift System that almost split the US into two
about 1.1 billion years ago. The rift started
in Michigan and extended down into the
Midwest before mysteriously stopping.

Researchers are unsure why the rift stopped.
However, they know that it would have
linked with the ocean to create a new ocean
that would have sliced North America into
two continents. Today, evidence of the rift
system can be seen in the 3,200-kilometer-
long (2,000 mi) valley below the Great Lakes
in the northern Midwest.

1. North America Once Split Into Two Continents

North America did really split into two
continents in the Late Cretaceous Period that
occurred from 100.5 million to 66 million
years ago. (For clarity, the entire Cretaceous
Period began about 145 million years ago
and ended 66 million years ago.)

The split had nothing to do with the rift
valley, though. Instead, North America split
after rising sea levels saw the ocean breach
the coastline and spill into low regions in the
middle of the continent. Researchers call the
ocean that emerged the “Western Interior
Seaway.” It began at the Arctic Ocean and
ended at the Gulf of Mexico.

Researchers call the two continents
“Laramidia,” which was in the west, and
“Appalachia,” which was in the east.
Laramidia went from Alaska down to Mexico.

It was one-third the size of today’s North
America, which makes it the same size as
Australia.

Laramidia and Appalachia existed for millions
of years until the sea started to dry up 70
million years ago. Researchers believe that
the sea dried up as the North American
tectonic plate moved and the Earth got
cooler.

listverse.com/2019/06/03/10-fascinating-facts-about-the-continents/

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