Thursday, May 27, 1999 Published at 07:59 GMT 08:59 UK
'Lost continent' discovered
Drilling beneath the ocean: The Joides Resolution
By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse
Drilling by the Joides Resolution research vessel, which traverses the seas extracting samples from beneath the sea floor, suggests that the continent, about a third the size of present day Australia, sank from sight only 20 million years ago.
The Joides Resolution, the world's largest research vessel, bored a series of holes through the undersea plateau, which is about two kilometres below the ocean surface.
Spores and pollen
It brought to the surface many types of rocks associated with explosive volcanism, as well as sedimentary rocks similar to those found in India and Australia.
"Wood fragments, a seed, spores and pollen recovered in 90 million year-old sediment from the central Kerguelen Plateau indicates that it was above sea level."
Scientists believe that it rose out of the ocean about 110 million years ago, following a series of huge volcanic eruptions.
Fifty million years ago, it may have been covered in lush ferns, moist with tropical humidity.
Twenty million years ago, it started to sink beneath the waves of what is now the Indian Ocean.
Scientists hope that studying the region will help them understand the break-up of Australia, India and Antarctica.