Friday, January 11, 2013

The mystery of the "Vanishing Island"

    A 60 square mile land mass know as the Sandy island or the Sable Island has vanished without a trace from the Pacific Ocean. This island was supposed to be located between Australia and New Caledonia and can be seen in the older versions of Google Maps and several other scientific and nautical maps.

The original location of the Sandy Island

    Just recently a research vessel sailed to the location to find nothing but deep blue Pacific more than 4,500 feet deep. The researchers and doctoral students overboard the ship saw this mysterious island on all the scientific maps and weather maps but not on one navigational chart that was on their ship. There was no indication of any land mass at the exact location where the Sandy Island was shown.

    If Sandy Island did exist, it would sit in the French territorial waters. But the French government denies that any of its official maps ever listed the invisible island. If such an island never existed, how did it find its way on several maps. Google is not the only one to depict this invisible island. Bing Maps, Yahoo maps and several other nautical maps, weather maps and scientific maps show this phantom island at the exactly same location.

    A number of theories abound about the mysterious island. For instance, it's possible that it was added to a map at some point to prevent copyright infringements. This sort of tactic is common on street maps, where phantom streets are sometimes added to flag counterfeiters. But the practice is highly unusual for nautical charts, since these maps rely on strict accuracy for their credibility. Google Maps does not show this mysterious Sandy or the Sable Island.

 The current Google Maps does not show Sandy Island

    The phantom island, which is also called Sable Island on some charts, is reminiscent of another famous fictional island, the one from the television series "Lost". In the series, a group of strangers crash land on a mysterious island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The island is eventually revealed to possess magical qualities, such as the ability to become invisible when outsiders search for it.

    Could this disappearing island be a case of fiction masking reality? It's certainly fun to think about.