Sandy Island, as featured on Google Earth

Google Earth's phantom island off the coast of Australia

Australian scientists have been searching for a mystery landmass during a geological expedition, after a South Pacific island identified on Google Earth, marine charts and world maps could not be found.

Australian scientists have been searching for a mystery landmass during a geological expedition, after a South Pacific island identified on Google Earth, marine charts and world maps could not be found.

The phantom island, located in the C0ral Sea, is identified as Sandy Island on Google Earth and measures about 15 miles by three miles on Google maps. It is supposedly midway between Australia and the French-governed New Caledonia.

According to the Times Atlas of the World, it appears to be identified not as Sandy Island but Sable Island. Weather maps used by Australian maritime research body the Southern Surveyor also say it exists, according to Dr Maria Seton, from the University of Sydney's School of Geosciences.

When recently the Southern Surveyor travelled to where the island was supposed to be, it was nowhere to be found. This expedition occurred when the research body were tasked with identifying fragments of the Australian continental crust submerged in the Coral Sea.

Dr Seton said: “We wanted to check it out because the navigation charts on board the ship showed a water depth of 4,620 feet in that area - very deep.

“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.”

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

Nabil Naghdy, product manager of Google Maps for Australia and New Zealand, has said: "We work with a wide variety of authoritative public and commercial data sources to provide our users with the richest, most up-to-date maps possible. One of the exciting things about maps and geography is that the world is a constantly changing place, and keeping on top of these changes is a never-ending endeavour.”

Mr. Naghdy went on to say that the continuous exploration for new ways to integrate novel information from users allows users to comment on the errors or inaccuracies with the “Report a Problem” tool, which can be found in the bottom right corner of the map. “Once we've received the edit or suggestion we'll confirm it with other users, data providers, Street View imagery or other authoritative sources.” said Mr. Naghdy.

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.

Recent articles

Info Message

Our sites use cookies to support some functionality, and to collect anonymous user data.

Learn more about IET cookies and how to control them

Close