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The mysterious little island that keeps appearing and disappearing!3 min read

May 6, 2022 3 min read


The mysterious little island that keeps appearing and disappearing!3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

What do we do when we are in a new place and cannot find our way around? Or when we’re taking a new route, and aren’t quite sure if it will lead you back home? For most of us, the answer lies in our phones — Google Maps. With a click of a button, we can figure out exactly where we are thanks to a little something called GPS or Global Positioning System.

However, though mostly reliable, Google Maps has been baffling a few scientists. Here’s why:

‘Phantom island’

See that little red dot there? Those are the coordinates for the mysterious Sandy Island.

There is an island on Google Maps that keeps appearing and disappearing, leaving scientists completely confused. An obscure piece of land located between Australia and an island named New Caledonia called Sandy Island, has been an enigma for many years.

Details of this island were first published in British Explorer Captain James Cook’s Chart of Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean, all the way back in 1776. Exactly a hundred years later, in 1876, a ship that was out to hunt and catch whales called Velocity also reported seeing the island. This was consequently reflected in several 19th century maps in England and Germany. Then, it was once again spotted in 1895, with the island believed to be 24 kilometres long and 5 kilometres wide.

The mystery begins…

A few years later, there were doubts about whether this island existed at all! The French Hydrographic Service — part of France’s Ministry of Defence — completely removed it from its nautical charts in 1979.

In November 2012, several Australian scientists headed towards the area of Sandy Island and found nothing but sea. They even recorded the oceans depth at the coordinates, which was 4,300 feet, which suggests that there was little to no possibility that the island had sank below the ocean.

“We wanted to check it out because the navigation charts on board the ship showed a water depth of 1,400 metres (4,620 feet) in that area – very deep. It’s on Google Earth and other maps so we went to check and there was no island,” Maria Seton, of the University of Sydney, told AFP:

“We’re really puzzled, it’s quite bizarre. How did it find its way onto the maps? We just don’t know,” Maria added. 

Four days later, Google Maps removed the island from its service.

So where is it now?

If you punch in the exact coordinates of the island, however, you can see a tiny lump in the ocean where the island used to be displayed on Google Maps. Nobody truly knows whether the island ever existed, and thus it remains a mystery to date.

There is also no official explanation as to why several sightings of Sandy Island have been seen over the years, but many experts believe that the island may have been the floating remains of a submerged volcano or coastal subaerial eruption.

Since we’re on the subject of islands, give this quiz a shot. It’s all guessed it — ISLANDS. Good luck!

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