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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Mystery: Terra Nova Islands

A picture of the Antarctic coast.
Here on this blog, we cover an array of topics. Missing persons, cryptids, and conspiracies. Today’s going to be something brand new though: phantom islands. So rather than linger on the introduction, let’s instead dive right into the story of the Terra Nova Islands.

The Story

This story is one that’s very short and lacks a whole lot to it. In my brief time researching it, I only found three websites that really offered anything of substance. The first was the Wikipedia article, which is about as shallow as a kiddie pool in my eyes. The other two websites are near carbon copies of each other: Pirate Ship Vallarta and Pirate Show Cancun. I have no idea if they’re run by the same person/people or if they’re related to each other, but I found it odd how similar they were.

Anyways, let’s start this off by discussing what a phantom island is. In essence, they’re islands that are seen by a person and group/groups of people, but later vanish; never to be found or seen again by anyone. They’re more common than you may think and there are a fair number of them out there. There are numerous theories as to what they are, with some saying they are/were real islands that may have sank to known landmasses that were mistaken for islands. Others have suggested that they’re interdimensional landmasses, literal ghost islands, or a giant turtle whose shell has become a landmass. All things considered, the concept of phantom islands is a unique one and it cannot be stressed enough that they’re not prone to some really ludicrous claims. On final note: as for why I went with a story that’s so short, I thought it’d be best if we eased into this topic with a short story before we dive into, say, Bermeja Island (which some say the CIA nuked into oblivion). That and given I’m covering a story a day, I don’t want to rush through a large story.

With that out of the way, the story of the Terra Nova Islands—as told to us by Wikipedia—takes us back to March 8, 1961. According to Wikipedia, the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions first saw these islands from Magga Dan. Later, the islands were named by the Antarctic Names Committee of Australia after the British ship known as the Terra Nova, which itself had led a British expedition to Antarctica between 1910 and 1913.

Fast forward to 1989 and German expedition named GANOVEX V was planned. Their goal was to map the islands, but when they went to the supposed location of the islands via helicopter, there was nothing there. Later measurements taken through echo sounding confirmed no subterranean land masses and the GANOVEX VII and GANOVEX VIII expeditions cemented this, with the final verdict of the Terra Nova Islands having never existed.

That’s where the Wikipedia article ends and as such, the “official” story of the Terra Nova Islands comes to a close. So let’s jump straight into theories.


1. They were real islands

The first theory we have is that the islands were in fact real. It’s just possible that we weren’t right in where they were located. There’s also speculation that they may have melted due to a warming climate. However, due to the advent of high powered satellites, this seems exceedingly unlikely.

2. They weren’t real

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the theory that the islands weren’t real. While this seems like a no brainer given the lack of evidence pointing to them, one has to wonder exactly what the Australian team saw that day. There are a few theories to this in of itself and they are as follows:

2a. Seaweed Mass

The first is that the team saw a large mass of seaweed out at, well, sea and mistook it for a landmass.

2b. Icebergs

The second of these is that the team saw two or more large icebergs and that, in the time between the initial finding and the German expedition, they either melted from a changing climate or they drifted off elsewhere.

2c. Fog Banks

The third and final of these theories is that they saw a large fog bank and mistook it for an island. This is a remarkably common explanation for phantom islands as a whole and as we’ll see in the future when we cover them, it’ll become all but a staple of the topic. As a fun fact: fog banks are also an explanation for most (if not all) sightings of ghost ships.

3. An Interdimensional Landmass

Well, I guess since I mentioned it earlier, I should address this theory. While the black sheep of the theories surrounding phantom islands, this theory is still one that exists, if only in the realm of fringe circles. It’s also a conspiracy of sorts, but I digress. The theory is that our dimension/reality overlapped with another (or vice-versa) and a group of islands that exist in the other reality became visible in our reality for a period of time before the two realities separated once more and the islands vanished.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of interdimensional travel, overlapping, and all of that other stuff, I want to cover it sometime this year (if life permits it). Though this theory isn’t restricted to phantom islands and other landmasses. Towns, such as Doveland, Langville, and Urkhammer all fall into this category. The stories of the Man From Taured and Jophar Vorin are also classified as entities from another dimension. Because of that, I’m leaving this theory up to you. I’d rather not end up six dimensions under because I spoke out against this theory.

My Take

To be very blunt about it: I don’t think the Terra Nova Islands were real. I think the researchers saw a fog bank and mistook it for a series of islands, got overly excited, and then never bothered to double check their findings. As for the possibility that the islands were icebergs that melted or drifted off, I doubt that the icebergs were that large. Though I could easily be wrong; I likely am actually. Though I’m sticking to the theory of a fog bank.


And so we sail away from this mystery. Whether or not the islands truly existed is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure that if they had, we’d have discovered  them by now thanks to the satellites that orbit the Earth. In spite of that, I’d like to hear what you think; do you believe the Terra Nova Islands truly existed? Or were they but a case of mistaken identity?


  1. Mistaken identity, possibly. Maybe the sailors were just that desperate for a find they made it up.

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