These “ghost islands” only exist on maps

These "ghost islands" only exist on maps

16 Europeans rush to explore the seasE The century caused an explosion in the field of cartography, which later led to new expeditions whose reports enriched the atlases. ” [La cartographie] “It was a competitive business, and cartographers were desperate for the latest information brought back by returning explorers to fill in the blanks,” says Edward Brooke-Hitching, author of the book. Phantom AtlasPublished in 2016.

“Inevitably, the ghost geography began to flow. Rumors, unconfirmed sightings, miscalculations—before longitude, island locations were recorded by dead reckoning and more or less reductions—and even myth were incorporated by the cartographer to unveil the most complete picture of the New World. »

Once a ghost island was born, it was difficult to disappear. According to Brooke-Hitching, they were only removed from the chart when a ship went to the indicated location and confirmed its absence. This task was complicated by optical illusions or mirages caused by light refractions, such as the famous Fata Morgana, a kind of distant line “frighteningly close but always out of reach”.

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Mirages, illusions and disappearances

According to Kevin Whitman, a researcher at the University of La Laguna in Spain who completed his thesis on ancient maps, these phantom islands have caused many problems for navigators searching for these phantom landmasses. “These expeditions were expensive and in some cases dangerous. Finding out they’re sailing to a place that doesn’t exist isn’t good news. »

In the early 20’sE century, German explorer Baron Eduard von Toll led an expedition to Sannikov Land, and in 1810 a Russian ship first reported it 690 kilometers north of Siberia. When Toll’s ship got stuck in an iceberg in the New Siberian Islands, he and several colleagues used sleds and kayaks to make their way to Bennett Island, which can now be seen by tourists on recreational cruises in the Arctic Ocean. Those explorers are gone, and like Zanikov Earth, it may just be a mirage caused by a fata morgana, Brooke-Hitting suggests.

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According to Whitman, some ghosts have caused diplomatic tensions. The most famous is Bermeja Island, on the western side of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, which was at the center of a territorial dispute in the 2000s between the United States and Mexico over oil exploration. However, research conducted in 1997 and 2009 concluded that the island did not exist. Bermeja has been on the chart for over 400 years, but was recently removed. Perhaps it still exists, but masking sea-level rise, the researcher continues.

Other Phantom Islands have done the opposite, says book author Malachi Tallack Undiscovered Islands. Located 2,400 kilometers southwest of Africa, this frozen, uninhabited land mass was considered a myth for many years after it was first discovered by a French navigator in 1739. Bouvet Island was not seen for nearly eighty years, with several sightings recorded in many places and under different names. “The island was properly named and claimed by a Norwegian expedition about 200 years after its first sighting,” Tallack says.

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