Solved: Case of the Missing Island

'Sandy Island' error blamed on 19th-century chart

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 3, 2012 12:01 PM CST | Updated Dec 8, 2012 10:45 AM CST

(Newser) – There was some consternation last month when researchers sailed out to a Pacific island only to find that it wasn't there. Now, a New Zealand researcher says he can explain how the nonexistent Sandy Island got onto many maps. It all comes down to a whaling ship that passed through the area in 1876, he says. That ship's master marked some "heavy breakers" and "sandy islets" on an admiralty chart; later copies of that chart took the markings to be an island.

"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," the researcher says. "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." Following the controversy, Sandy Island has apparently been wiped from Google Maps, the Telegraph notes.

A screen grab from Google Maps.
A screen grab from Google Maps.   (Google Maps)
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