Sandy Island error traced back to 1876 whaling ship

Sandy Island error traced back to 1876 whaling ship

Sandy Island error traced back to 1876 whaling ship

Updated 3 December 2012, 18:55 AEST

A researcher at Auckland Museum in New Zealand has solved the mystery of disappearing Sandy Island, finding evidence that it never actually existed.

A New Zealand researcher has solved the mystery of the disappearing Sandy Island, finding evidence that it never actually existed.

Shaun Higgins, a pictorial librarian at Auckland Museum, has discovered the source of the original error, which dates back to a whaling ship in 1876.

Sandy Island, also known as Sable Island, has appeared on maps for over a hundred years, and could even be seen on Google Maps.

However, a group of Australian researchers who set out for the island last month reported that they could not find it.

"As far as I can tell, the island was recorded by the whaling ship, the Velocity," Mr Higgins told ABC Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program.

Mr Higgins explained that the ship's master reported a series of "heavy breakers" and some "Sandy Islets".

Map: Sandy Island is supposedly midway between Australia and the French-governed New Caledonia.

"My supposition is that they simply recorded a hazard at the time," he said.

"They might have recorded a low-lying reef or thought they saw a reef. They could have been in the wrong place. There is all number of possibilities.

"But what we do have is a dotted shape on the map that's been recorded at that time and it appears its simply been copied over time," Mr Higgins said.

So what is there?

"Nothing!" Mr Higgins laughed.