Islands, seas and countries on the map that don’t exist
NON-existent islands, invented mountain ranges, mythical civilisations and other fictitious geography were all at various times presented as facts on maps and atlases.
And phantom islands that never really existed are still being presented as "real" in the 21st century.
As recently as 2012, the so-called Sandy Island between Australia and New Caledonia was established as non-existent.
Australia and North America were once supposed to have vast inland seas that were drawn on maps.
California was believed to be an island off the west coast of America, and a mythical sea passage known as the Strait of Anian gave sailors hope of a quick passage to the East.
But along with mythical sea monsters and imagined and bizarrely shaped humans that occupied mysterious parts of the earth, these are all fictitious.
Throughout much of the 19th century more than 40 different mapmakers included the Mountains of Kong, a huge range of peaks stretching across the entire continent of Africa, in their maps.
It was only in 1889 when Louis Gustave Binger revealed the whole thing to be a fake.
The Phantom Atlas: Islands that never existed
The first printed map of the Americas showing North America doubled back on itself in Sebastien Munster's Tabula Novarum.
The first printed map of the Americas showing North America doubled back on itself in Sebastien Munster's Tabula Novarum.Source:Supplied
For centuries, explorers who headed to Patagonia returned with tales of the giants they had met who lived there, some nine feet tall.
All these stories and fascinating and genuine old maps are featured in a new book,
The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps.
The Phantom Atlas is an atlas of the world not as it ever existed, but as it was thought to be. A collection of striking antique maps that display erroneous cartography, it tells the story behind each false illustration.
Exploration, map-making and mythology are all brought together to create a colourful tapestry of monsters, heroes and volcanoes; swindlers, mirages and murderers.
Sometimes the stories are almost impossible to believe, such as the tale of Gregor MacGregor, a Scottish explorer who returned to London to sell shares in a land he had discovered in South America.
He had been appointed the Cazique of Poyais, and bestowed with many honours by the local king of this unspoilt paradise.
He offered others the chance to join him and make their fortune there, once they had paid him a bargain fee for their passage.
Here's more unbelievable places and stories:
STRAIT of ANIAN
One of European explorers' greatest obsessions was the search for a trade route through the Arctic to reach Asia and plunder its riches.
The imagined sea corridor would provide an alternative to the gruelling route around South America's dangerous Cape Horn, or the difficult Strait of Magellan.
Before that the rumoured legendary route was drawn on maps as the Strait of Anian.
Described in great detail and adopted by mapmakers from the 16th century, the mythical strait was held onto and seaman claimed to have sailed it.
On a 1567 map by Bolognini Zaltieri, it appears as a narrow and crooked passage separating Asia from America.
It haunted maps for hundreds of years.
The strait grew in size and legend as an easy sea lane linking Europe with northern China.
James Cook dispelled rumours of its existence in 1778 during his third Pacific voyage.
A true strait was discovered in the 18th century and became known as the Bering Strait.
However the Northwest Passage via the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic Ocean wasn't successfully navigated until 1906.
Long before Dutch and Portuguese explorers began charting the west coast of Australia, Terra Australis or the Great South Land was believed to be a vast continent or southern hemisphere.
It is mentioned by Aristotle in his book Meteorology in the fourth century BC as corresponding to the North Pole.
Even Ferdinand Magellan in 1520, on sighting land across from Terra del Fuego on the southern tip of South America believed it was a glimpse of the huge southern continent.
In 1533, German Johannes Schoner produced the first depiction of Terra Australis on a globe.
In 1589, Abraham Ortelius' Map of the Pacific showed a giant Terra Australis dominating the south.
From 1642, when Abel Tasman sighted New Zealand, the discovery of modern Australia began and started to take shape on the maps.
Tasmania, once joined to the mainland and originally called Van Diemen's Land, was eventually separated by cartographers.
AUSTRALIA'S INLAND SEA
In the 19th century, 42 years after the 1788 land of Britain's First Fleet at Botany Bay, the great unmapped interior of Australia was a mystery and a source of great hope.
The fact that rivers generally led to the discovery of fertile land and interior river systems led explorers to hope they would find a large inland sea in the middle of Australia.
A rich, verdant paradise in the heartland would provide the new colony with sustenance and attract settlers.
Englishman Thomas Maslen drew a map of a hopeful inland Australia, to encourage colonial expansion by its water riches.
The map ignored all that was known about Australia's aridity, but explorers were dispatched and some did in the futile search for the non-existent utopia.
CALIFORNIA AS AN ISLAND
The fantasy of California as an island earthly paradise can be traced back to a 1510 book, Las Sergas de Esplandian which describes a land of Amazonian women without a single man.
The women were of course beautiful, had weapons made of gold and tamed wild beasts.
This fabulous myth drove Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes to send expeditions to find the Amazonian island.
After the Baha peninsula was discovered, the Spanish redoubled their efforts to find the mythical land.
California began to appear on maps as an island or a peninsula, and it wasn't until 1706 that doubts began to surface.
In 1747, King Ferdinand of Spain declared: "California is not an island".
On the Carta Marina, the resplendent map by Olaus Magnus complete with fabulous sea monsters, the land of Thule is located northwest of the Orkney Islands.
Thule was an icy far northern location in classical European literature, an island of antiquity which some people interpret as Norway, Iceland or Greenland and others as the Shetland or Orkney Islands.
The term Ultima Thule in medieval geographies denotes any distant place located beyond the "borders of the known world".
British surveyor Charles Vallancey was one of many antiquarians who argued that Ireland was Thule.
It is a mythical island of great antiquity, first written of in around 330BC by Greek explorer Pytheas.
Reports of the existence of Taprobana, a legendary island, were known as far back as Alexander the Great's time in the 4th century BC.
Some said the island was as large as Great Britain and had riches of pearls, gold and spices.
It was supposedly located either in Sri Lanka or Sumatra and had animals such as tigers and elephants roaming its plains.
It was said to have 500 towns, the most magnificent of which was Palesimindus, home to its royal family.
The seas were bright green and at the bottom were huge forests and giant turtles.
It was also meant to be populated by a mythical race known as the Sciapodes, men with one giant foot who used their limb for shade from the noon sun.
ISLAND OF BERMAJER
There is a curious phenomenon in marine law known as a "doughnut hole" which appear when the perimeter of the area of water 200 miles (332km) from the coast of different countries don't quite meet.
These watery no-man's lands - called Hoyas de Donas in Spanish - are deemed international waters.
In the Gulf of Mexico, several of these doughnut holes became a point of contention between the USA and Mexico because of undersea oil resources.
Enter the small Mexican island of Bermajer, which first appeared on maps in the sixteenth century but was still being searched for in 2009.
Its existence has never been proven, despite the desperation of Mexico to prove that its lands extend to include Bermajer and thus its claim on marine oilfields.
Bermajer was described in 1540 as a "blandish or reddish" island and it remained on charts into the nineteenth century.
After this, several British maps recorded this land as having mysteriously sunk from sight, with its last appearance found on the 1921 Geographic Atlas of the Mexican Republic.
In 1997, Mexico and the US prepared to negotiate a treaty to divide the Hoyas de Donas region and a Mexican Navy vessel was sent on a discovery mission.
It failed to find the island of Bermajer and the charted spot was nothing but sediment-covered ocean floor.
Some still believe the island existed but disappeared due to rising seas, an underwater earthquake or other forces of nature.
Sandy Island off the east coast of Australia was only proven to be non-existent in 2012.
It first appeared on the 1908 edition of a British admiralty map, which indicated that Sandy Island had been discovered in 1876 in French territorial waters by the whaling ship Velocity.
It was given the French name "Ile de Sable".
Around the size of Manhattan, the island charter for a century and was clearly marked on a 1982 U.S. Defence Mapping Agency map.
The annotation read: "Reported 1876. Reported to be about 4 miles east, 1968."
But in November 2012, an Australian surveyor ship passed through the area and "undiscovered" it.
The expedition was led by Maria Seton, a young scientist from University of Sydney, to the Coral Sea aboard the research vessel, the RV Southern Surveyor.
The crew noticed that on several maps where a long black island, the on-board map showed nothing but open sea.
Seton went to where the maps indicated where the island was only to find that it was, indeed, nothing, but open water.
That, of course, created a lot of questions.
Where did a 24km long by 5km wide island go to? Did it erode into the ocean?
Was it an island so flat that it was covered by water when the ocean rose and uncovered when the ocean level was lower? Did it sink?
The island was quickly removed from many maps and data sets, including those of the National Geographic Society and Google Maps.
The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps, by Edward Brooke-Hitching, $49.99, published by Simon and Schuster.