Australian scientists appear to have disproven the existence of a tiny island that has appeared on maps for at least a decade. Researchers from the University of Sydney told AFP that while they had gone to examine Sandy Island — located off the coast of New Caledonia near Australia — all they found was around 4,500 feet of seawater. Sandy Island currently appears on Google Maps and has been printed in weather maps and atlases, but Google's satellite imagery shows only a black splotch where it ought to be.
"The world is a constantly changing place."
Google has acknowledged the error, telling the Sydney Morning Herald that "the world is a constantly changing place, and keeping on top of these changes is a never-ending endeavour." Others, meanwhile, have asked how the island got on the maps in the first place. One common theory is that the island was originally introduced as a version of the trap street: a fake street or other location that's sometimes added to maps to prevent copying (if the map is copied wholesale, all the original creators have to do is point to the nonexistent street.) Mike Prince of the Australian Hydrographic Service, however, told the Herald that nautical charts rarely include such phantom areas, which he said would "reduce confidence in what is actually correct."
Whatever led to its creation, the island's existence has been disputed before. Around 2000, a group of New Caledonian amateur radio enthusiasts appear to have determined that the island did not appear on satellite photographs and asked National Geographic's David Miller about the discrepancy. They note that the island had been removed from some then-contemporary maps, quoting Miller as concluding that "our maps are hopelessly outdated for this area." Lost's Damon Lindelof, likewise, appears unfazed by the discovery.