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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. They believe the microcontinent, which they have christened “Mauritia”, may also lie beneath Réunion Island and the Seychelles.
“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.
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.