Lost Island – Google Maps PR Prank 2012 or Fly’s dung

- Would you like to join me for exploring trip to “Sandy Island”? I found this great place just off the New Caledonia coast.
- No, it isn’t!? It’s just fly’s droppings! What a shame…

You think geographers and cartographers in 21st century know everything about our globe. They can measure it with 1cm accuracy thanks to very accurate satellites and laser devices, explore it flying over things and taking aerial photos. However recently has been “discovered” Google among other providers made up some islands together with their names! You can clearly see below this is an artificial mark on the top of the satellite raster but it was given name – “Sandy Island”. According to Wikipedia its existence was questioned in 2000 (well before Google Maps existed) but it was not publicised. In 2012 it get full attention.
So, What happened?

Go to Google Maps search “Sandy Island” – unbelievable it does exist. First you would thought there should be thousands of places called “Sandy Island” and you are wrong not many of them around about 10 fairly well known. Second someone who made up this island together with its name must have a lot of fun now.

View Larger Map

Phantom Island of Coral Sea shows us clearly Internet published data can be greatly inaccurate. In some cases we perhaps put too much faith in this medium. Even “Sandy Island” existed prior to internet maps it looks like mistake was replicated in digitalised based on offline materials and taken for granted as correct in online world.
It is worth to mention here non of the existing big online map services is homogeneous. You would think so but this is not a case. In UK alone services like Google Maps or Bing Maps use at least 5 providers for satellite imagery and maps layers. After all GIS (Geographic Information Systems)  it is big complex structure and although Google and Microsoft  are some of the biggest organisations in the world they can not cope with global scale mapping on their own. With so many providers worldwide there is no wonder you will have lots of mistakes.

So how “Sandy Island” made to charts? There are few possible scenarios:
1) Raster problem – one of the satellite imagery providers for example NASA created image with couple of dead pixels this was interpreted as island when picture was processed
2) Copyright mark – a lot of cartographers make some insignificant mistake in order to recognise their work. In case map is replicated illegally this mistake is also replicated. There is only one but – this is not done on sea charts for security reasons
3) Prank – sometimes in 1990s someone decide to create island for fun – junior cartographer in some equivalent of Ordinance Survey when digitalising maps decided to create an island. If this would be the case this is the guy who has now so much fun watching all these articles.
4) Fly’s dropping – try to imagine this cartographer in late XX century produces digital vector version of the map based on satellite image. A fly flies over and… “Sandy Island” is created. Trust me however funny this sounds it is possible – I did create few maps in my life :-)

- Do not organise your holidays based only on Google Maps ;-)
- Always keep in mind internet is full of errors so do not take it for granted all data from Wikipedia is correct or this is true because you did “Google it”

Be Sociable, Share!

One thought on “Lost Island – Google Maps PR Prank 2012 or Fly’s dung

  1. Smokee Tokess

    I actually organised tours to Sandy Island, which has long been my ancestral home, only joking. But why are the apple maps in iphone 5 completely rubbish, when you zoom in all the roads disappear. Iphone 4 maps are much better


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>