Sunday, 25 September 2016

mare incognitum

Beforehand I had heard of how map-makers have historically staved-off others appropriating and copying their survey work by inserting made-up avenues (trap-streets) or frivolous features, knowing that if these decoys were present, their competitors were simply stealing from them.
I never knew that this geographic bait was sometimes preserved with intention and out of a sense of tribute and tradition, as was the case with Hy-Bra∫il (named after the home of the ancestors of one of Ireland’s legendary clans), a phantom island that drifted on charts between Ireland and North America over the course of nearly five centuries. Other spurious islands usually only survived one or two iterations of mapping, the false information quickly dispelled, but Hy-Bra∫il remained from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century in some form or another.  With Atlantis lost, perhaps in this Age of Exploration, navigators needed some immaterial goal to sustain them on their journeys—something elusive, which supposedly only emerged from the mists once every seven years and even when visible for that one fateful day, was forever just beyond the horizon. Maybe the Bermuda Triangle is heir to that tradition.