- Technology

Sandy Island, The Island That Wasn’t There

A New Zealand researcher thinks that he has solved the riddle of a mysterious South Pacific island shown on Google Earth and world maps, but which doesn’t really exist. He thinks that a whaling ship from 1876 is to blame.

The phantom landmass in the Coral Sea is shown as Sandy Island on Google Earth and Google Maps, and it is supposed to be midway between Australia and New Caledonia. The Times Atlas of the World identifies it as Sable Island, but Australian scientists who recently went searching for it during a geological expedition couldn’t find it.

A South Pacific island identified on Google Earth, now blacked out, never existed. Credit: Google Maps

Shaun Higgins, a researcher at the Auckland Museum, started investigating this. He claims that it never existed and that a whaling ship was the source of the original error. The whaling ship Velocity recorded the island, reporting of a series of heavy breakers and some sandy islets.

“My supposition is that they simply recorded a hazard at the time. They might have recorded a low-lying reef or thought they saw a reef. They could have been in the wrong place. There is all number of possibilities,” states Higgins.

“But what we do have is a dotted shape on the map that’s been recorded at that time and it appears it’s simply been copied over time.”

Sandy Island was also on Yahoo Maps as well as Bing Maps and Google told AFP last month it always welcomed feedback on maps and “continuously explore(s) ways to integrate new information from our users and authoritative partners into Google Maps”.

It appears that Sandy Island has now been taken off Google Earth.


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