There’s something magical about islands, something that makes them so alluring, attractive, and appealing that they’ve been the focus of uncountable fantasies over the centuries and have even become the latest “gotta-haves” among the fabulously rich and famous.
Owning our own private island is not an option for the rest of us, however, and even a quick visit, during the current constraints of our coronavirus pandemic is off the table.
But it is possible, and easily affordable, to personally own and enjoy a handsome map of your favorite island. Or even a whole collection of islands. Please keep reading.
Let’s begin with a couple of definitions and clarifications.
What is an island, exactly? Simple answer: It’s a land mass surrounded by water. But hold on, Africa and Australia fit that description, but they are labeled as continents and are not considered islands.
There are even places that have “island” in their names but are not actually islands. Rhode Island, for example, is bounded by land on three sides and the origin of its name may have been an early reference by a Dutch explorer who referred to it as “Roodt Eylandt” meaning “red island” in reference to the red clay that lined the shore.
Across the Sound from Rhode Island is Long Island, which is not actually an island either, at least according to a Supreme Court ruling 35 years ago that labeled it a peninsula. And nearby Coney Island, home to Luna Park and the Cyclone roller coaster, is also not an island.
And throughout history there’ve been numerous “phantom islands” that made their way onto maps without actually even existing, such as Dougherty Island, in the Pacific Ocean between Cape Horn and New Zealand; Sandy Island, in the Coral Sea, which even showed up on Google Earth; Bermeja, off the north coast of Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, which showed up on maps as recently as 1914.
Explanations for its apparent disappearance include a claim that the Central Intelligence Agency destroyed the island to expand the economic zone allotted to the United States.
And one of the most famous of all, the depiction of California as an island on maps in the 17th and 18th centuries.
But there surely are no shortage of real islands -- ones you could not only find on a map but also go to and stand on. According to a count taken by the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space, there are more than 18,000 islands in the world.
We promised to share a few maps with you, and here are some island maps from our own collection. Please feel free to share pictures or stories of your own favorite islands. We’d love to hear from you.
Original 1887 map of Sicily, off the southern tip of Italy. It shows Mount Etna, Messina, Palermo, Catania, Marsala, and Ragusa
The two main islands in the Fiji archipelago in a detail from a1950 US Air Force navigation chart that also shows Samoa, Tonga, and the Gilbert & Ellice Islands
Greenland, the world’s largest island, on one of history’s smallest maps – an original 1889 Arbuckle Coffee Company Trading Card