Sandy Island, Nonexistent South Pacific Island, Put On Maps By Whalers, Researcher Says

The mystery of how an island that doesn't exist yet appeared on maps for more than a century has been unraveled.

Australian researchers last month revealed that there's nothing but open water where Sandy Island -- as the phantom landmass is labeled on Google Maps -- allegedly rises out of the Coral Sea.

The researchers steamed ahead for the isle's coordinates after noticing that it appears on some, but not all navigational charts.

At the time, they were unsure of the first recorded mention of Sandy Island -- or Sable Island as it's also called. Either way, when they arrived, there was nothing to be found.

Now, a librarian has apparently unraveled the mystery, the Sydney Morning-Herald reported.

The mistake is attributed to a possible misunderstanding of records from an 1876 whaling expedition, according to the Auckland Museum's Shaun Higgins. The crew on the Velocity spotted a potential hazard to other ships, made a note of its location, and over time, mapmakers turned the treacherous zone into a physical island.

A 1908 chart shows Sandy Island with a note saying it was discovered by the Veloicty, a whaling vessel that traveled the region in 1876, the Telegraph reported.

On the 1908 chart, Sandy Island is outlined with dots and contained an illuminating warning.

"The general details have been collated from the voyages of various navigators extending over a long series of years. The relative position of many dangers may therefore not be exactly given," according to the Auckland Museum's blog, which announced Higgins' finding.

The Velocity's master recorded "heavy breakers" and "sandy islets" in the area and Higgins believes that over time mapmakers came to regard them as an actual landmass.