Friday, 23 November 2012

Undiscovering a ghost island in the Pacific

Geographic exploration of our the lands of our planet is basically done and we can say confidently that there are not major unknown features out there. People still find waterfalls in the Amazon and the Himalayas -vertical features not easily detected with satellite data- , or relatively small rivers in the jungle -streams covered by jungle- but we have such a good coverage of the Earth by many sensors onboard satellites, that we can hardly imagine a team of explorers discovering a new river or an island.

What published yesterday the Guardian is actually quite the opposite: a team of marine scientist in the search of an island that, even though it was mapped in Google Earth as Sandy Island near New Caledonia it didn't really exist. So they undiscovered it!

The team on board the RV Southern Surveyor, led by geologist Maria Seton, from Sidney University, embarked on a voyage to research plate tectonics in that part of the Pacific, and passing near the location of the island, decided to investigate it, as they had found discrepancies about its more essential nature: even though Google Earth spotted it, the island didn't appear on the navigation chart of the vessel and no images of it where available.

What did they found? Nothing.Waters not less shallow than 1300 m and not a single evidence of the presence of the island. Check out the location in this map:

View Larger Map

The article in almighty Wikipedia on the Sandy Island reports that some amateur radio enthusiasts had already "undiscovered" the island in 2000, but the story didn't circulate. In that article also explains that it could be a case of a copyright trap -a cartographic method of introducing deliverated errors in order to detect unauthorised copies of a map-.

Do you know any similar case of copyright traps? I do them sometimes in my geological maps!

By the way, you may not know the story of the Landsat Island, an island not mapped before being observed on Landsat images! 



James Morris said...

An Australian scientific expedition sailed past the location where Sandy Island (Île de Sables) in the Coral Sea should have been and found nothing but open water.
Appearing on nautical charts and maps as far back as the early 19th century, this phantom island has erroneously been a “pick-up” by cartographers ever since. If you have been interested just click

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