What is this ghost island called Sandy Island?

First identified in the 19th century, Sandy Island is in reality a ghost island in the Pacific, whose mystery was solved only five years ago. Lets look back on this incredible story. 

Are there still undiscovered places on Earth? It’s possible, but on the other hand, there are sometimes areas that we think exist, which in reality do not exist at all! This is the case with Sandy Island, and island 25 kilometers long, which is supposed to be found North of New Caledonia, but which was ‘undiscovered’ just a few years ago. The first doubts about its existence arose in 1979, when certain experts started to challenge the existence of the island, although they had no proof.

In 2008, the French National Hydrographic Service under the Ministry of Defense conducted a study which claimed that it was in fact an underwater mountain, and not an island, strictly speaking. Sandy Island has long featured on Google Earth, before it was finally removed after a 2012 expedition by Australian geologist Maria Seton and her team from Sydney University. The scientists found nothing in the area but water.

“The navigation charts used by the ship showed a depth of 1400 metres in an area where our scientific maps and Google Earth showed the existence of a large island”, said Maria Seton.

Shaun Higgins, a researcher in the Auckland Museum (New Zealand) claimed that the error is a result of surveys carried out by the whale ship Velocity, recorded by an Australian shipping registry in 1876. These records showed some small islets and large reefs. The researcher draws particularly from a map drawn up in 1908 by the British navy, stored in the archives of the Auckland Museum (see below).

Detail from the 1908 chart showing Sandy Island in the Coral Sea. Credits: Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tamaki Paenga Hira

“It is quite simply a mirage, arising from putting too much faith in multiple information sources that contain certain errors”, claims Thierry Rousselin, the director of cartography agency Geo212.

Sources : Université de SydneySydney Morning HeraldLe Figaro