Exploring the Lost Continent of Zealandia – An Evening with Dr. Stephen Pekar
On October 12, Dr. Stephen Pekar had a brief stopover in Sydney and regaled ANZEC members of his recent multi-month drilling expedition in the Tasman Sea and the newly named continent Zealandia.
Dr. Pekar is an American geologist, a professor at Queens College of the City University of New York, and member of the Explorers Club New York Chapter.
For two months, Dr. Pekar joined scientists from a dozen countries on the International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 371 to explore Zealandia. The expedition was able to extend drilling pipe through up to 15,000 feet of water to recover core samples drilled over 2,700 ft (~850 meters) below the sea floor. This resulted in developing a climate and tectonic record of Zealandia as far back as during the time of the dinosaurs. Through a collaborative effort of 30 scientists on the ship, the expedition rewrote the geologic and geographic history of Zealandia, as the core samples provided an indication of what life and the atmosphere was like tens of millions of years ago on this now mainly submerged continent. In fact, the time intervals the expedition focused on (e.g., 25-45 million years ago) was the last time that carbon dioxide was as high as what is predicted for this century.
Dr. Pekar expressed the importance of paleoclimatology as a crystal ball – looking into our past we can understand our future. Understanding how life on Earth respond to atmospheric changes such as increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases can inform our understanding for atmospheric change in the future.
(By Captain Sophie Hollingsworth)