An expedition has been launched that will spend the next two months studying the continent of Zealandia, a mostly-submerged land mass that was officially classified as a continent earlier this year. Stretching from the island of New Caledonia in the north to Campbell Island in the south, 95 percent of Zealandia lies under the ocean, with the island of New Zealand making up the largest portion of the continent’s dry land area.

The expedition is being hosted on the drill ship Joides Resolution, and will drill for sediment and rock samples from the ocean floor, with the recovered samples being studied onboard. Subjects such as oceanographic history, climate extremes, sub-seafloor life, plate tectonics and earthquake-generation zones will be addressed, in addition to assessing the lost continent’s overall effect on the planet.

"As Australia moved north and the Tasman Sea developed, global circulation patterns changed and water depths over Zealandia fluctuated," explains Rice University’ Jerry Dickens, the expedition’s co-chief scientist. "This region was important in influencing global changes."