The ‘lost’ continent of Argoland, which split from Australia 155 million years ago, has been discovered in fragments hidden under Southeast Asia, according to geologists at Utrecht University. Argoland’s remnants can now be found scattered under large parts of Indonesia and Myanmar.
TRACING THE CONTINENTAL DRIFT
Scientists had long known about Argoland’s existence due to the ‘void’ left by the continent in the form of the Argo Abyssal Plain, a basin deep below the ocean. However, no large continent was found beneath Southeast Asia, where Argoland was predicted to have drifted, leaving researchers puzzled.
ARGOLAND IN FRAGMENTS: THE ‘ARGOPELAGO’
The research team at Utrecht University has now managed to reconstruct the history of Argoland, revealing that it exists in fragments. The continent never existed as a single, coherent landmass, but instead as an ‘Argopelago’ of micro continental fragments separated by older oceanic basins. This fragmentation process began around 300 million years ago and accelerated about 215 million years ago, causing Argoland to shatter into thin splinters.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FIND
The discovery of Argoland’s remnants is crucial for understanding the Earth’s geological past. If continents can submerge into the Earth’s mantle and disappear entirely without leaving surface traces, scientists would face difficulties in creating reliable reconstructions of ancient supercontinents and the Earth’s past geography. These reconstructions are essential for understanding processes like biodiversity evolution, climate, and the search for raw materials. They also provide insights into how mountains are formed and the driving forces behind plate tectonics.
THE FUTURE OF GEOLOGICAL RESEARCH
The researchers’ detective work not only revealed Argoland’s fate but also fits seamlessly with the neighbouring geological systems of the Himalayas and the Philippines. Their findings highlight the importance of continuous research and exploration in understanding the Earth’s complex and ever-evolving geological history.