22/11/2012 10:17 GMT | Updated 22/11/2012 10:52 GMT

Mysterious 'Sandy Island' Found On Google 'Does Not Exist' Insist Scientists After Pacific Voyage

A large Pacific island that appears on Google Maps has been declared "not to exist" by a team of Australian scientists who spent 25 days at sea looking for it.

The mysterious 'Sandy Island' appears on Google as well as iOS Maps, Bing and other online services.

It has been in 'existence' on maps for at least 10 years, according to the BBC. The Times Atlas of the World lists the island as 'Sable Island'.

From the maps it is a large, long island virtually alone in the Coral Sea, in the Southern Pacific, east of Australia and near the French-governed New Caledonia.

But the island has long been shrouded in rumour, partly because it appears as nothing but a black shadow in Google's satellite view.

Recently scientists from the University of Sydney went looking for it on the new Marine National Facility research vessel Southern Surveyor.

"We wanted to check it out because the navigation charts on board the ship showed a water depth of 1,400m in that area," Dr Maria Seton told the AFP news agency.

After more than three weeks they found nothing except deep ocean - and now have declared it probably doesn't exist.

That's despite the fact that the island appears on the ship's navigation equipment.

If it did exist where it is supposed to, the island would be located in French territorial waters.

"How did it find its way onto the maps? We just don't know, but we plan to follow up and find out," Dr Seton said.

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Australia's Hydrographic Service speculates that human error may be responsible, and the mistake has simply been repeated on maps ever since.

Mike Prince, the director of charting services for the Australian Hydrographic Service, told that the world coastline database incorporated individual reports that often had errors.

"We take anything off that database with a pinch of salt," he said.

It is also thought the island may appear as a form of "digital watermark", so that map makers can tell if their work has been copied elsewhere.

In a statement Google said "the world is a constantly changing place" and they would review their data.

Still, the web turned up at least one other explanation:

"The island could be stuck in a time loop and only visible sometimes," said a user of

"It could be there when the boat came by but a magnetic disturbance could cause the island to "not exist".

"In other words, the inhabitants of the island could be stuck in a different "time" and thus invisible to our "time" except when the dimensions converge (probably due to attacks on its magnetic field due to solar activity).

"I don't know, I just asked my 6 year old nephew what he though about an invisible island and thats what he told me."