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Posted by on Jan 29, 2015 in 2015, blog, category, Nature & Culture | 0 comments

Ferdinandea, the island that was and wasn’t there…

Ferdinandea, the island that was and wasn’t there…

A long, long time ago in a clear blue sea not that far away, there was an island off the coast of Sicily, claimed by the British, the Italians and the French. This is the story of the island who was, and then wasn’t there…

On July 17, 1831 due to volcanic eruptions, an island was formed 19 miles off the coast of Sicily and it was first spotted by Michele Fiorini from Sciacca (Sicily), who had been sent out to inspect the area. The island continued to grow in size until it reached 2.5 miles in circumference and it was 207 feet high.

The English were interested in the island due to its location close to the sailing route from Gibraltar to Malta, so Captain Sanhouse disembarked on the island and planted the British flag, claiming it for the King of England and naming it Graham’s Island.

The King of Sicily also realized the strategic value of the island and dispatched a ship to claim it. He called it Ferdinandea in honor of King Ferdinand II. Then the French came along and named it Ile Julia because of the month it first appeared.

For several months the three nations fought in the press and through diplomatic channels over who had first claim. Tourists traveled to the 200-foot high piece of basalt and there were even plans for a resort that could utilize its beaches. Unfortunately, the volcanic material from which the island was formed was so soft, that it could not withstand the force of the ocean waves and on December 17, 1831, exactly 5 months after its discovery, officials reported that there was no trace left of the island…

Aerial photograph of Ferdinandea or Graham's Island

What could be an aerial photograph of Ferdinandea or Graham’s Island

In 1863, the volcano re-established the island Ferdinandea for a few short weeks, but then it disappeared again.


Ferdinandea below the sea

On marine charts, it is now called Graham’s Bar and is around 8 meters below the surface of the Mediterranean sea. This small shoal has become an excellent habitat for many marine creatures. In Italian, Ferdinandea is also known as L’isola che non c’è, “The island that isn’t there”.

If you’d like to visit the island that isn’t there, it isn’t located here…;-)

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