Maps of old regularly featured phantom or speculative geographical features, including cities, islands, mountain ranges, and seas.
Dive into the origins, rumours, and deceptions behind these myths, and see how centuries of exploration changed our world view.
Speculative features that were assumed to exist based on faulty logic and/or indirect observations.
Features that were taken as fact from fictional accounts or were intentionally invented by mapmakers/explorers to deceive the public.
The purpose of these inventions was typically to gain notoriety, secure funding for future expeditions, or to catch map plagiarists.
Real islands, but due to poor instrumentation in centuries past for recording ship positions these lands would often be assumed to be entirely new discoveries and/or ended up positioned incorrectly on contemporary maps.
However, as technologies improved and islands became charted more precisely, duplicate versions would sometimes continue to appear on the same map.
These mistakes could persist for centuries, often out of a reluctance to remove lands without strong evidence for their non-existence.
Mistaken lands, typically in polar regions where large icebergs and mirages are common occurrences.
Cities associated with legend, folklore, or longstanding myths.
Islands associated with legend, folklore, or longstanding myths.
Waters associated with legend, folklore, or longstanding myths.
Mountains associated with legend, folklore, or longstanding myths.
Phantom islands whose disappearance has been explained by sinking.
Lands likely sighted as a mirage. Fata Morgana is a common in polar regions, and occurs when a thermal inversion is strong enough that the curvature of the light rays within the inversion layer is stronger than the curvature of the Earth.
Islands mistakenly reported from sightings of large icebergs.
Geographical features that appeared on map due to unintentional mistakes or misunderstandings made by the cartographer.
Some of these map errors evolved out of initially correct reports from explorers, but were later modified or misplaced to align with contemporary understanding.
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Lost Islands - Henry Stommel
The Phantom Atlas - Edward Brooke-Hitching
No Longer on the Map: Discovering places that never were - Raymond H. Ramsay