It's Sandy Island on Google Maps and Sable Island on others. But, in fact, the 60-square-mile island in the South Pacific, nestled between New Caledonia and Australia, doesn't exist at all. "We saw this mysterious island on all of the scientific maps and weather maps but not on this one navigational chart that was on our ship," Ph.D. student Sabin Zahirovic told CNN. "So we decided to go see if it was actually there." Zahirovic and the others on the research team aboard the RV Southern Surveyor planned to arrive at the non-site of the non-island in the middle of the day, but a navigational error set them back and they cruised past in the middle of the night. "The captain was actually quite nervous because the island was showing up on all the maps," said Zahirovic, who s studying tectonics in the eastern Coral Sea. "We were watching all of our depth-sounding equipment. Luckily for us the sea floor turned out to be very deep there."
The non-discovery raises some serious questions about our scientific understanding of the ocean. This latest research will result in the scrubbing of the island from most maps, but it has bigger implications. "All the scientific cartography relies on these maps, and numerical simulations of waves and currents depend on size of these land forms," Zahirovic said. "It just goes to show the oceans are so underexposed. It's actually really shocking that we haven't not found more islands."