WTF Fun Fact 12686 – RIP Sandy Island

Sandy Island was 15 miles long, roughly the size of Manhattan. Or at least that’s what the maps showed in the decades leading up to 2012. It even showed up on Google Maps in the Coral Sea, east of Australia.

Discovered in 1876, the best we can guess is that there might have been a floating pile of pumice there at some point that made explorers think it was an island. In any case, they put it on a map, and there it stayed until 2012. That’s when a research crew passed by the site and realized the island wasn’t there.

It hadn’t been covered by water. There was no evidence at all that an island had ever been in that location. The water a mile down was free of any proof that a landmass had ever been in that location.

As if embarrassed, everyone from National Geographic to Google quickly and quietly removed the island from their maps. (Which, let’s face it, raises some questions about maps in general and what they encourage us to believe without asking further questions.)

The truth is, the island had been “undiscovered” even before 2012 as people reported that there was nothing there and some maps labeled Sandy Island “ED,” or “existence doubtful.”

Maybe it started with a false sighting or perhaps with a simple recording error, but that error was replicated in databases for over 100 years without anyone questioning it (or looking for proof via satellite).

David Titley, a retired Navy rear admiral who spent over three decades as an oceanographer and navigator, told The Washington Post:

“When we look at these computer displays, with the three-dimensional imagery and colorized, it can give you a sense that we know more than we do. A lot of people in the Navy don’t always understand the difference between having a chart and having the survey data that formed that chart.”

There is no longer a Sandy Island on modern maps. Scientists even published an obituary for it in 2013. – WTF fun facts

Source: “The Pacific island that never was” — The Guardian

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WTF Fun Fact 12549 – The Shugborough Inscription

Sometime between 1748 and 1756, Thomas Anson, a member of the British Parliament, commissioned a monument for his family’s estate, Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire, England.

The stone arch features a relief by the Flemish sculptor Peter Scheemakers duplicating a 1638 painting by Nicolas Poussin called The Shepherds of Arcadia. But unlike the painting, the relief includes an extra sarcophagus with the words “I am also in Arcadia.”

But what really gets people riled up about the arch is an inscription on it that no one has explained. Of course, it can simply be something personal to the family, but pseudohistorians and conspiracy theorists have deemed it something bigger – a mysterious ciphertext.

The inscription is a series of letters – O U O S V A V V – between the offset letters D and M.

According to the most likely theory, handed down by Keith Massey, a linguist who teaches Arabic and Latin and was hired by the NSA to crack the code, it’s not a secret message worthy of worldwide attention.

For example, the letters D M can be found on Roman tombs and stand for Dis Manibus, which translates to “dedicated to the shades.”

With this clue in place, Massey postulated that the rest of the letters stood for “Oro Ut Omnes Sequantur Viam Ad Veram Vitam,” or “I pray that all may follow the Way to True Life.”

Frankly, that seems like a good enough explanation for a random monument in someone’s backyard. But the fact that people (including the likes of Charles Darwin) had been trying to decipher it for many years indicated to some that it has a much deeper meaning. Of course, there’s no way of knowing if that’s true, and it seems unlikely.

But conspiracy theorists won’t be denied their conspiracies. They’ve been egged on by the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, which hypothesized that a secret society called the Priory of Sion is helping to keep the secret that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children. The authors acknowledge the book is fiction, but their passing reference to Poussin being a member of this group and his painting The Shepherds of Arcadia holding some clue to the location of the Holy Grail (which, in this case, is not a vessel but Mary Magdalene herself) has been enough to keep the conspiracy alive.

A spokesman for Shugborough House says they get numerous messages each week of someone claiming to have solved the “mystery,” and they’ve largely started ignoring them. After all, they could simply be initials or stand for something that would only be meaningful to the family that once lived there. But they are also partly to blame for the continued interest since a promotional campaign they launched to get more tourists made repeated references to the storyline in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. –  WTF fun fact

Source: “200-year-old mystery of Shugborough Code ‘solved,’” The Birmingham Post

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