The Un-Discovered Island

Look for it between Australia and New Caledonia, in the south Pacific.

Sandy Island.

Approximate landmass: Unknown.

Population: Unknown.

Hang On. Unknown??

Yes, and there’s a good reason, for that.

If you took a transport now, and went to the above location, you would find that there’s nothing there, but deep blue sea.

Sandy Island doesn’t exist.

Umm… That’s Not What Google Earth Says.


Maps on Google Earth still display the island, in glorious living digital.

Still doesn’t alter the facts.

Sandy Island doesn’t exist.

Mind you, we shouldn’t blame Google. Much.

The island also exists on marine charts and world maps – and has done so for at least a decade.

The missing island has also regularly appeared in scientific publications, since at least the year 2000.

Un-Discovering Sandy

The discovery took place onboard the RV Southern Surveyor, Australia’s Marine National Facility research vessel, during a 25-day research trip in the eastern Coral Sea.

The Southern Surveyor was tasked with identifying fragments of the Australian continental crust submerged in the Coral Sea.

A team of Australian scientists led by Dr. Maria Seton, a geologist from the University of Sydney, have just sailed past where Sandy Island should be – and found nothing but water.

According to Dr. Seton:

“We became suspicious when the navigation charts used by the ship showed a depth of 1400 meters in an area where our scientific maps and Google Earth showed the existence of a large island.”

“Somehow this error has propagated through to the world coastline database from which a lot of maps are made.”

Not All Maps, Though.

Neither the French government – within whose territorial waters the invisible island would sit, if it existed – nor the nautical charts of Seton’s vessel, the RV Southern Surveyor (which are based on depth measurements), had the island marked on their maps.

Dr Seton had no idea how the island came to be on so many maps, but she is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.


Amendments to existing databases will have to be made.

Steven Micklethwaite from the University of Western Australia said, “We all had a good giggle at Google as we sailed through the island, then we started compiling information about the seafloor, which we will send to the relevant authorities so that we can change the world map.”

Mike Prince, director of charting services for the Australian Hydrographic Service (a department within the Navy that produces Australia’s official nautical charts) said the world coastline database incorporated individual reports that were sometimes old, or contained errors.

“We take anything off that database with a pinch of salt,” he said.

And, while some map makers intentionally include phantom streets to deter copyright infringements, that was not standard practice with nautical charts, Mr. Prince added.

And Google Earth?


Nabil Naghdy, the product manager of Google Maps for Australia and New Zealand, said Google Earth consulted a variety of authoritative public and commercial data sources in building its maps.

“The world is a constantly changing place, and keeping on top of these changes is a never-ending endeavour,’’ Mr. Naghdy said.

He encouraged users to alert Google to incorrect entires using the ‘Report a Problem’ tool, found at the bottom right corner of the map, which they would then confirm with other users or data providers.

They Found Atlantis, Though.

Did they, now?

Back in 2009, rumors spread across the Internet like wildfire, that Google Earth software had located the mythical sunken city of Atlantis, off the coast of Africa.

A British aeronautical engineer who was experimenting with Google Earth 5.0, had noticed something funny off the coast of Africa, about 600 miles west of the Canary Islands, that resembled a pattern of a street grid.

According to the United Kingdom’s Press Association, the pattern of streets equated to an area the size of Wales.

Sadly, Google had to rain on our collective parades.

While laying claim to any number of Google Earth-related discoveries, a statement from Google read:

“In this case, however, what users are seeing is an artifact of the data collection process. Bathymetric (or sea floor terrain) data is often collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea floor. The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data.”

So. Not Atlantis, Then.


But perhaps, a story for another time.

Till then.