While perusing CNN for anything of interest this headline grabbed my attention:
“An ‘Undiscovered’ South Pacific Island”
How could I not read this!? There are thousands of little islands out there, and many are not very well studied or mapped, particularly in the vast Pacific and the inhospitable Arctic. Especially if they are only islands part of the time, and submerged at other times — still a great hazard to ships.
CNN’s typical hyperbolic and often ungrammatical headlines regularly mislead me into clicking on links leading to nothing of real interest, but this time was different. It turns out an island listed on many charts and maps (including Google Earth) just doesn’t exist! Sandy Island (or Sable Island) was supposed to sit between Australia and New Caledonia. And an expedition researching plate tectonics noticed the island was missing from some charts, but not others, so they checked it out for themselves. It ain’t there!
I think I’d be more excited about discovering a previously unknown landmass, but this is still pretty fascinating. It buoys my spirits to see modern maps, charts, and even Google can be wrong. We don’t know all about the Earth. We can still discover even the most basic things, like pieces of land that aren’t!
There are lots of stories like this in exploration and geography. Phantom Islands of the Atlantic is a nice quick read about, well, phantom islands of the Atlantic. Some of them were on maps until fairly recently, but none of them exist. Some may have been shoals or low-lying islands that were later inundated by the sea — a fate we all may be headed for.
More on the recent undiscovery of Sandy Island: