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Where'd They Go?

Disappearing Islands All Over The World

By James Donahue

There is a mystery behind various mapped islands around the world that have gone missing. Some blame rising sea levels but this can’t be the total answer. Some of the islands went missing long before global warming became an issue and the ice caps began their massive melt-down.

That some islands are claimed as the territory of nearby nations and even used in marking international boundaries and fishing territories, is creating serious problems now that they have disappeared. But in many cases, the islands that once were believed to exist, and even appear on world maps, have simply gone strangely missing.

The Mexican Government’s claim of ownership of Bermeja, an island in the Gulf of Mexico, became a controversial issue in 2009 when it suddenly disappeared. Planes, ships and even satellite images were used to find the island, but it was gone. With new crude oil discoveries deep under the Gulf, Mexico needed its claim to the island to stake its territories in the gulf. Some of the Mexican authorities accused the CIA of blowing up the island to subvert their drilling rights to the oil.

Another interesting political issue involved New Moore Island in the Bay of Bengal. Both India and Bangladesh claimed the island as theirs because it was in a strategic location at the mouth of the Hariabhanga River, the boundary between the two countries. Recently, however, it was learned that Moore Island had disappeared. Rising sea levels are blamed.

In India’s Hooghly River, Lahachara Island with a population of over 6,000 people reported submerged in the 1980s. Thousands of displaced people were forced to relocate on the mainland. It was one of four islands on the river that went missing during the last 20 years. The other islands were Bedford, South Talpatti and Kabasgadi. Lahachara Island was the only one of the four that was inhabited. Strangely no study was ever done to determine why this and the other islands went missing. Even more strange was that in April, 2003, news stories reported that Lachara Island had risen out of the river again.

Billingsgate Island, located off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, was once an active fishing and whaling community and considered part of the nearby coastal town of Wellfleet. A lighthouse stood on the island. Over the years the island eroded away until today it is nothing more than a shoal where local residents sometimes go to picnic and look for shellfish. It is only visible from the mainland during low tide. When the first settlers arrived in the area, Billingsgate Island was about 60 acres in size. About 30 homes once stood there.

There is the strange case of Sandy Island which shows on the nautical maps as a small island in the Coral Sea, located about midway between Australia and New Caledonia. The island appears on world nautical maps, marine charts, atlases and even in scientific publications. But when researchers searched for the island, nothing was there. Was it charted by error or did an island that once existed there go missing?

Elizabeth Island, once said to have been located at the southern tip of South America, was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth by explorer Sir Francis Drake. Drake described anchoring off an uninhabited island where he found supplies of wood and water. Nobody has ever found the island since.

Even on Lake Superior, a North American inland fresh water lake that is not being affected by rising sea levels, the once mapped island of Ponchartrain, named by early French explorers, has strangely gone missing. This island and at least three other smaller islands in a chain in the middle of the lake have either disappeared or the early map makers were having illusions.