Nineteenth-century British admiralty charts included more than 200 islands that are now known not to exist. Think of that - an imaginary archipelago, a scatter of dream isles, that sneaked past the sober men at the Hydrographic Office and on to the world's most definitive sea maps. It's easy to imagine how the mistakes were made. A dark band of sea fog is mistaken for an atoll. A distant alto-cumulus seen through heat is taken for a sea cliff, towering over a bronze sea. A hydrographer jots down the discovery, before the ship gets veered away by weather. The data is returned to Greenwich's cartographers - and so the geological and the chimerical get mingled.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
At the Guardian, Robert Macfarlane on islands (the whole piece is well worth reading, but here is the opening paragraph):