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Scientists can't find Pacific island called Sandy

“It’s on Google Earth and other maps so we went to check and there was no island. We’re really puzzled. It’s quite bizarre,” said the explorer.

'A' marks the spot where Sandy Island lies on Google Maps.
'A' marks the spot where Sandy Island lies on Google Maps.
Image: Google Maps

A SOUTH PACIFIC island identified on Google Earth and world maps does not exist, according to Australian scientists who went searching for the mystery landmass during a geological expedition.

The sizeable phantom island in the Coral Sea is shown as Sandy Island on Google Earth and Google Maps and is supposedly midway between Australia and the French-governed New Caledonia.

The Times Atlas of the World appears to identify it as Sable Island. Weather maps used by the Southern Surveyor, an Australian maritime research vessel, also say it exists, according to Dr Maria Seton.

But when the Southern Surveyor went to where the island was supposed to be it was nowhere to be found.

Seton, from the University of Sydney, said it was very perplexing:

It’s on Google Earth and other maps so we went to check and there was no island. We’re really puzzled. It’s quite bizarre.

How did it find its way onto the maps? We just don’t know, but we plan to follow up and find out.

News of the invisible island sparked debate on social media, with tweeter Charlie Loyd pointing out that Sandy Island is also on Yahoo Maps as well as Bing Maps “but it disappears up close”.

Someone else debated that many mapmakers put in deliberate but unobtrusive and non-obvious ‘mistakes’ into their maps so that they can know when somebody steals the map data.

Google said it always welcomed feedback on a map and “continuously explores ways to integrate new information from our users and authoritative partners into Google Maps”.

The Australian Navy’s Hydrographic Service — the department responsible for producing official nautical charts — told Fairfax media it took the world coastline database “with a pinch of salt” since some entries were old or erroneous.

- © AFP, 2012

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