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Sandy 'Mary Celeste' Island undiscovered - again

Radio hams beat science by a decade

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It’s the story of a tiny little Coral Sea island that’s gone all around the world: a group of scientists on expedition visit the spot where the island is marked on the maritime charts, only to find it doesn’t exist.

And with the island – called Sandy Island and formerly thought to exist in the ocean between Australia and New Caledonia – appearing on Google Maps, the international outbreak of schadenfreude was inevitable.

As one of the expedition told the Sydney Morning Herald, “We all had a good giggle at Google as we sailed through the island, then we started compiling information about the seafloor, which we will send to the relevant authorities so that we can change the world map.”

It’s also given rise to a host of Twitter jokes observing that Sandy Island didn’t occur on iOS 6 maps.

Had the newshounds of the world searched for information about Sandy Island, also referred to as Les Ile de Sable, they would have found that the “undiscovery” was first reported in the year 2000, by a group of radio hams on what’s known as a DXpedition.

A DXpedition, according to Wikipedia, is the kind of geeky competition only the most enthusiastic enthusiasts can manage: trying to find remote places from which to send a message.

The hams in question report here that they sought Sandy Island because its existence would have disqualified the Chesterfields from being a worthy DXpedition location.

Its existence “was one of the key issues in determining whether the Chesterfield Islands qualified for addition to the DXCC List as another new entity,” the 2000 report states. “It is required that there should be an open water separation of at least 350 kilometers between the westernmost point of FK-land and the easternmost point of Chesterfield Islands. If Sandy Island existed, the separation would not be sufficient, and the bid to make this a new DXCC entity would have failed.” ®

Bootnote: While the DXpedition story doesn't explicitly state that a trip was made to Sandy Island's location, it does note that charts were already being revised at the time to remove the error.

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