In October of last year, a Google Maps user stumbled upon an unusual sight in the Pacific Ocean. Reddit user Kokoblocks shared an image of a dark blob in the middle of the ocean, which caused an uproar of conspiracy theories. The black hole appeared to be as big as 56 acres and nowhere near any significant mass of land. Users debated what it could be, with some fearing it was “the island from Lost,” while others wondered if the Bermuda Triangle had shifted from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.
However, the object in question was not a hole in the ocean. It was actually the 56-acre island of Vostok, which is an uninhabited island owned by the Republic of Kiribati. The image was shared with the title, “what the F**K this looks nothing like an island,” and immediately sparked speculation on social media.
One knowledgeable Redditor explained that what appeared black was, in fact, very dark green. The island was covered in a dense forest of Pisonia trees, some of which could climb as high as one hundred feet tall. When viewed from above, the trees grew so close to one another that they appeared to be a single layer of color.
While some Redditors suspected censorship or a military base, Live Science confirmed that Google Maps often blurs out military bases and other classified locations. However, the island was not blurred out, and the black spot was simply created from a close crop of trees that had grown tall on the remote Pacific island.
The island of Vostok is approximately 4,000 miles east of Australia and about 1,500 miles west of Hawaii. It is part of a group of islands known as the southern Line Islands, which include Malden, Starbuck, Flint, and Caroline. Daily Mail reported that the first European discovery of Vostok was in 1820 by Russian explorers who named the island after the ship they were sailing.
The United States later claimed the island in 1856 due to its valuable guano deposits, which was a popular fertilizer during the Civil War. The island was later given to the British and eventually became associated with Kiribati in 1979, when the country gained independence. Vostok was later declared a wildlife sanctuary and has been protected ever since.
In 2009, marine conservationist Enric Sala led an expedition to Vostok to study its fish populations and document its natural resources.
The discovery of Vostok island sparked excitement and curiosity among internet users, who initially mistook the dense forest for a black hole in the ocean. It serves as a reminder of the vastness and diversity of our planet, with uninhabited islands like Vostok offering a glimpse into the beauty of nature that remains largely untouched by human hands.