Aussie scientists un-discover Pacific island

Nov 22, 2012
Photo illustration of Google Earth. A South Pacific island identified on Google Earth and world maps does not exist, according to Australian scientists who went searching for the mystery landmass during a geological expedition.

A South Pacific island identified on Google Earth and world maps does not exist, according to Australian scientists who went searching for the mystery landmass during a geological expedition.

The sizeable phantom island in the Coral Sea is shown as Sandy Island on Earth and and is supposedly midway between Australia and the French-governed New Caledonia.

The Times Atlas of the World appears to identify it as Sable Island. Weather maps used by the Southern Surveyor, an Australian maritime research vessel, also say it exists, according to Dr Maria Seton.

But when the Southern Surveyor, which was tasked with identifying fragments of the Australian submerged in the Coral Sea, steamed to where the island was supposed to be, it was nowhere to be found.

"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," Seton, from the University of Sydney, told AFP after the 25-day voyage.

Aussie scientists un-discover Pacific island
The supposed 'Sandy Island' as seen on Google Earth.

"It's on Google Earth and other maps so we went to check and there was no island. We're really puzzled. It's quite bizarre.

"How did it find its way onto the maps? We just don't know, but we plan to follow up and find out."

News of the invisible island sparked debate on social media, with tweeter Charlie Loyd pointing out that Sandy Island is also on Yahoo Maps as well as Bing Maps "but it disappears up close".

On www.abovetopsecret.com , discussions were robust with one poster claiming he had confirmed with the French hydrographic office that it was indeed a phantom island and was supposed to have been removed from charts in 1979.

Another claimed: "Many mapmakers put in deliberate but unobtrusive and non-obvious 'mistakes' into their maps so that they can know when somebody steals the map data."

Google said it always welcomed feedback on a and "continuously explore(s) ways to integrate new information from our users and authoritative partners into Google Maps".

"We work with a wide variety of authoritative public and commercial data sources to provide our users with the richest, most up-to-date maps possible," a Google spokesman told AFP.

"One of the exciting things about maps and geography is that the world is a constantly changing place, and keeping on top of these changes is a never-ending endeavour."

The Australian Navy's Hydrographic Service—the department responsible for producing official nautical charts—told Fairfax media it took the world coastline database "with a pinch of salt" since some entries were old or erroneous.

Explore further: Study shows air temperature influenced African glacial movements

More information: Press release

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Google merges online and offline worlds in Maps

Aug 08, 2012

Google on Wednesday took another step in its quest to merge the Internet with the real world with Maps and put itself at the heart of mobile gadget lifestyles in the process.

NASA joins Google in mapping the moon

Sep 19, 2007

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has joined with Google Inc. in producing new higher-resolution lunar imagery and maps.

Google Maps taking viewers inside shops

Nov 01, 2011

Google's free online map service is letting shops, gyms, restaurants and other small businesses provide viewers glimpses of what lies behind facades seen on Street View.

Google Maps tracking traffic flow

Aug 26, 2009

Google has invited US motorists to share their progress -- or lack thereof -- with other drivers through the Internet giant's online mapping service linked to smart phones.

Recommended for you

Melting during cooling period

7 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A University of Maine research team says stratification of the North Atlantic Ocean contributed to summer warming and glacial melting in Scotland during the period recognized for abrupt cooling ...

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

10 hours ago

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

User comments : 13

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

verkle
2.5 / 5 (8) Nov 22, 2012
Wonder how many more such islands and other landmarks there are on current world maps.
diva4d
5 / 5 (1) Nov 22, 2012
Strange - on google earth the area is blotted out in black.. Isn't this based on satellite images?
Peteri
5 / 5 (2) Nov 22, 2012
Forget Hawaii, the TV series "Lost" was in fact filmed on-location on a real island that never actually existed! ;-)
88HUX88
5 / 5 (6) Nov 22, 2012
there be dragons
Sinister1811
1 / 5 (5) Nov 22, 2012
Doesn't surprise me. There are a lot of glitches on Google Earth, Sky, Mars and Moon. They're constantly updating it.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Nov 22, 2012
Many mapmakers put in deliberate but unobtrusive and non-obvious 'mistakes' into their maps so that they can know when somebody steals the map data.

For city maps that is certainly the case (intentional misspelling of street names and the like). So I wouldn't be surprised if that's the reason for this island - an a good indicator that everybody is just copying off each other.
Claudius
3 / 5 (8) Nov 22, 2012
It's Gilligan's Island. People were always almost discovering it.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (1) Nov 22, 2012
It is eerie how it disappears on Bing Maps, for example. Here be dragons, indeed.

@ Sinister: But it surprises us others that a "Google Earth, Sky, Mars and Moon" glitch would affect Yahoo and Bing Maps. =D
krundoloss
3 / 5 (2) Nov 22, 2012
Shhhh! Its Doctor Evil's Lair! Now we can move in and take him down. Just kidding. Maybe its something that powerful people dont want the world to know about. It does seem like a large island, compared to some other pacific islands that are tiny. How could this mistake be in so many map systems?
Sinister1811
1 / 5 (5) Nov 22, 2012
It is eerie how it disappears on Bing Maps, for example. Here be dragons, indeed.

@ Sinister: But it surprises us others that a "Google Earth, Sky, Mars and Moon" glitch would affect Yahoo and Bing Maps. =D


Oh, right. I wasn't aware of that. Now that you mention it, that does sound very unusual.
Mako10
5 / 5 (1) Nov 22, 2012
Wonder how many more such islands and other landmarks there are on current world maps.

If your using Apple Maps on the iPhone 5 there's tons of them!
_traw_at
5 / 5 (2) Nov 23, 2012
Deliberate fictitious entries on maps and in dictionaries are called 'copyright traps'. Some terms are Mountweazels, steinlaus (German for 'stone louse'), and a long list of other names.
http://en.wikiped...us_entry
And
http://contentini...entries/
tadchem
5 / 5 (2) Nov 23, 2012
Misinformation persists into the Information Age simply because it has practical uses. A friend of mine (a former employee of the Defense Mapping Agency) confirms the abundance of these idiosyncracies that are used for copyright protection.

More news stories

Melting during cooling period

(Phys.org) —A University of Maine research team says stratification of the North Atlantic Ocean contributed to summer warming and glacial melting in Scotland during the period recognized for abrupt cooling ...

How kids' brain structures grow as memory develops

Our ability to store memories improves during childhood, associated with structural changes in the hippocampus and its connections with prefrontal and parietal cortices. New research from UC Davis is exploring ...

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...