How Did This Tiny South Pacific Island Disappear? (Hint: It Never Really Existed)

Illustration for article titled How Did This Tiny South Pacific Island Disappear? (Hint: It Never Really Existed)

It shows up on Google Maps, coastal databases, and marine charts, but when scientists from the University of Sydney went to visit Sandy Island, it was no where to be found. Did the island, supposedly located between Australia and New Caledonia, suddenly disappear like a confusing LOST plot twist?


Unfortunately no, that wasn't the case. Instead, the scientists had simply undiscovered the island.

They first became suspicious of its existence when they arrived at the proper coordinates only to discover a vast blue ocean and a water depth of over 4,500 feet. Had the island disappeared due to erosion, there would still have been a large chunk of land mass beneath the waves. And how exactly Sandy Island made its way onto maps and charts as far back as 2000 is currently a mystery that the team from the University of Sydney is now trying to solve.

Was it simply human error? It's certainly been known to happen. Google Maps pulls its data from a variety of public and commercial sources, and unlike its fleet of Street View vehicles, it doesn't have a flotilla of boats scouring the planet's oceans for technical accuracy. So while the island still shows up in Google's database, don't expect it to be there much longer now that it's been proven to be fake. [BBC]



Alternative Reality: "Google spends several billion dollars building an island to improve its map accuracy".