Google Maps is hiding a ‘PHANTOM’ island that disappeared in 2012 – and experts are baffled

THERE’S a “phantom island” that lives as a ghost on Google Maps – and it has experts baffled.

The mysterious Sandy Island has been charted since 1774 as being located new New Caledonia in the South Pacific, but you won’t find it in Google Maps today.

Sandy Island Google Maps
The mysterious Sandy Island is a mapping “phantom”, and only appears on Google Maps as a faint outline
Google / The Sun

Instead you’ll see a faint outline of what looks like a long, thin island – but with no landmass in sight.

The story of Sandy Island begins on September 15, 1774, when Captain James Cook charted a “Sandy I.” in the eastern Coral Sea, off the northeast coast of Australia.

It was published in Cook’s “Chart of Discoveries made in the South Pacific Ocean” in 1776.

Historically, the island was believed to be 14.9 miles long and 3.1 miles wide – hard to miss, basically.

Sandy Island Google Maps
This UK Hydrographic Office nautical chart from 1908 is one of the earliest appearances of Sandy Island
R.C. Carrington, of the Hydrographic Office

One hundred years later – in 1876 – a whaling ship called Velocity also reported Sandy Island.

This was noted on several 19-century maps from Britain and Germany.

Eventually, sea charts began amending maps with the letters ED (for “existence doubtful”) after a number of voyages failed to spot the island where it was charted.

The French Hydrographic Service removed the island from its nautical charts in 1979.

But the true “undiscovery” came on November 22, 2012, when Australian scientists on the R/V Southern Surveyor failed to find Sandy Island.

Sandy Island Google Maps
The island is supposedly north east of Australia
Wikimedia Maps

The crew also recorded ocean depths, which were never less than 4,300 feet – suggesting that there was no chance an island was lurking just below the waves.

On November 26, 2012, Google removed the island from its Google Maps service.

However, there is a rise from the sea bed visible on the Google Maps satellite view.

So what’s the official explanation for Sandy Island?

There isn’t one, because no one can say with 100% certainty what Captain Cook saw all those years ago.

The best theory is that the island may have been pumice sea rafts.

Google Earth also charts the island’s outline, but doesn’t name it as Sandy Island

These are masses of floating pumice that have been blasted out from underwater volcanoes, and then move around on the surface.

These rafts can sometimes travel thousands of miles.

It’s possible that what Captain Cook – and the Velocity, later – saw were pumice rafts making a slow journey across the Pacific Ocean.

You can check out Sandy Island for yourself here:

Experts believe Sandy Island may have been a floating pumice raft – here’s an example of one near the Tonga Islands
Jesse Allen / Wikimedia Commons / Nasa

You can check out other interesting Google Maps secrets here.

And read about the mystery of Russia’s censored Jeannette Island on Google Maps, too.

Why do you think Captain Cook thought he saw an island that wasn’t there? Let us know in the comments!


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