The Man Who Erased Islands From Our Maps

When ocean surveyor Captain Sir Frederick Evans became the new chief hydrographer to the Royal Navy in the 1870s, he was tasked with charting the Pacific Ocean, which for more than 400 years had been filling up with "phantom islands," reports Intelligent Life magazine. That is, islands that existed on paper but not in reality—based on "false sightings, hopeful imaginings, brazen inventions, icebergs, pumice rafts, navigational errors," and so forth. Having spent half his life at sea, and having developed the standard treatise on magnetic deviation in iron ships, Evans was uniquely qualified to take his red ink to paper to create Pacific Ocean Chart 2683. Evans would ultimately erase 123 islands from the maps of the Pacific, and while his scientific mind and rich naval experience no doubt helped, it turns out he erased three too many—and let a few non-existent islands slip under the radar.

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