South Pacific island rediscovered – again

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Brent Evers and Eric Hutt are crewmembers aboard the icebreaker

Nathaniel B. Palmer, which often sails the storm-tossed waters between Chile and Antarctica on oceanographic research expeditions. The ship was recently working the waters off Bouvetøya Island, about 1,000 miles off Antarctica’s Queen Maud Land. Evers and Hutt were surprised to discover that a back issue of Ocean Navigator (Issue 32), which had apparently been lying about in the ship’s lounge, included an article about the remote island in the South Atlantic.

The article described the strange history of the island, particularly how, in centuries past, the island was first charted, how it subsequently disappeared as a result of certain errors in navigation calculations, only to be rediscovered some years later. Ironically, Evers and Hutt noticed that the author of the May 1990 article himself erred when detailing where the island is located. “Run your finger down the prime meridian to 50° 26’ south latitude,” Michael J. Mooney wrote. “Then go east 3° 24’ of longitude and there you’ll find it: 22 square miles of snow- and ice-covered volcanic rock pummeled by incessant wind and wave and shrouded in frequent poor visibility.”

Not so, the Palmer crew wrote in a recent missive: “As we are currently fishing within sight of the island, I can assure you that its actual location is 54 degrees 25.0 minutes south, 3 degrees 22.0 minutes east.”

“Note that this is approximately 240 nautical miles of error whereas your article cites that (Bouvet) was only off by 200. Have we aboard the Palmer rediscovered Bouvetøya?”

Belated apologies are due to our readers, and special thanks to our friends aboard Palmer for their superior navigational skills.

By Ocean Navigator