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    "Lost Islands" by Stommel
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2011 Jul 15, 20:26 -0700

    A quick post to recommend a book: "Lost Islands: the story of islands that have vanished from nautical charts" by Henry Stommel, published in 1984. There are numerous copies available through abebooks.com at reasonable prices. Be sure to ask whether it includes the large folded map in the back.

    I've owned a copy of this book since about 1990, which was when I "liberated" it from a Chicago used bookstore, but I never read it through until last month (and in all those years I didn't notice the wonderful map in tucked in the back until I read the introduction!). The discussion of settling the longitude of an Indian Ocean atoll in that O'Brian novel last month reminded me of the book, since that was the usual origin of the hundreds of mis-charted islands around the globe --incorrect longitudes. It's a nice "beach read" for fans of mapping and navigation, lots of great stories, no serious concepts, and generally harmless fun. There are some of the usual navigational myths that were prevalent through the 80s. For example, he believed that it took four hours to work a lunar, which is wrong by at least a factor of ten. Apart from that, I didn't find any serious problems. In a pocket in the back cover, there's a huge copy (double-sided, about 45x27 inches) of two interesting Admiralty charts: the Indian Ocean c. 1817 and the Pacific c.1859 which show many of the phantom islands. I recently acquired a German globe from about 1935 which still displays a bunch of islands in the Pacific east of Japan, including Los Jardines, Roca de Plata, Ganges, and those two islands Morrell and Byers, which some slightly too-clever globe publishers used to introduce a westward detour into the so-called "International Date Line" late in the 19th century. None of them ever existed. Stommel says that the German globe publisher, Columbus, still had those islands on some of their globes in the 1970s.


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