Ex-Isles: Islands That Disappeared

Vanessa Ellen Mei Yin NAH, Francesco PERONO CACCIAFOCO*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Phantom islands are falsely mapped islands that turned out non-existent. This paper examines the histories and the etymologies of the names of Bermeja, Hy Brasil, and Sandy Island. Appearing cartographically since 1539, Bermeja’s ‘undiscovery’ blocked Mexico’s ownership of an oil-rich section of the Gulf of Mexico. Hy Brasil appeared first in 1330 maps and became falsely associated with Irish mythology. Sandy Island, near New Caledonia, was officially ‘unfound’ most recently in 2012, but existed on maps since 1908. This paper also examines the residential cruise liner The World, a manmade floating ‘island’ challenging our
notion of place. Though not ‘real’, these islands exist as hope – Bermeja, a hope for power, Hy Brasil, a hope for a divine land, and Sandy Island and The World, a hope for the unknown. In a largely known, familiar world, discovery is not exploring the new, but revisiting the old; not uncovering what we do not know, but undiscovering what we do.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-58
Number of pages27
JournalReview of Historical Geography and Toponomastics
Issue number25-26
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2018


  • Toponymy
  • Island Studies
  • Disappeared Islands
  • Island Names
  • Toponomastics


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