In the sub-Antarctic seas south of Macquarie Island lies an island that has become an enigma since its discovery.
Emerald Island was discovered in December of 1821 at 57°30′ south latitude, longitude 162°12′ east, by Capt. C. J. Nockells. It was given the name “Emerald” after Nockells’s vessel. The island has appeared and disappeared over the years since its discovery and remains a mystery. Often referred to as the Haunted Island, it is said to move from position to position, never staying stationary for too long.
Descriptions of Emerald Island vary from encounter to encounter. Some characterize it as mountainous, with steep, rugged faces and no accessible approaches or safe harbors. Others speak of rolling hills and lush, green fields. All sightings have been from a distance; no one has reported setting foot on Emerald’s shores.
In 1890, F. R. Chapman, a sea captain, botanist, and Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, spotted the island and attempted a landing. He was foiled, however, by the seemingly rugged cliff faces and rocky shores.
The first actual search for Emerald Island was conducted in the 1840s by Capt. John Wilson in command of the Vincenne and accompanied by the Porpoise. The vessels approached the reported position of Emerald, but found only open water. The expedition was considered inconclusive, as the location of the island was not clear from the numerous reports, and the weather at the time was heavy with fog.
In 1887, Captain Soule of the vessel Friendship made an attempt to find Emerald Island using the same technique Captain Wilson had applied. Once again, there was no sign of the island. It was decided at that point to eliminate Emerald Island from future maritime charts of the region.
Twenty-eight years later, fascinated by the riddle of Emerald Island, Capt. Robert Falcon Scott of the Discovery decided to include a search for it as part of his Antarctic expedition. On reaching Emerald’s position, things appeared hopeful. Soundings were taken showing a steady rise in the sea bed, which seem to indicate the prospect of a nearby land mass. The weather, however, was uncooperative and deteriorated so drastically that the search had to be abandoned.
The next search was conducted in 1909 by Ernest Shackleton during his Antarctic expedition. Conditions were optimal as Shackleton and his crew approached Emerald’s reported position. The weather was fine, the seas were calm, and the forecast was good. In spite of all this, once again no island was found.
In April of the same year, Captain Davies of the Nimrod ordered soundings to be made at the charted positions of Emerald from eyewitness accounts and previous reports of its position. These seemed to confirm the past conclusions of the nonexistence of Emerald Island.
Coming back from his Antarctic expedition, Roald Amundsen discovered that their return course would take them directly over the proposed position of Emerald Island. For the sake of safety, a course change was ordered as a precaution. The new course should have been westward of the island, if it existed. Again, Emerald did not make an appearance.
In 1894, a Norwegian expedition made attempts to find Emerald, and an island was indeed sighted at its supposed position. It was estimated to be about 50 miles long, lying in an east-to-west position; it looked barren and uninviting. As the Norwegians approached the island, however, it resolved itself into nothing more than a massive, floating iceberg.
The next search to bring news of the island occurred in April 1949. The New Zealand naval vessel Pukaki was heading for Campbell Island and approached Emerald’s position. Before the ship lay a craggy landmass that was witnessed by all aboard. The ship altered course to investigate, but once again disappointment greeted the witnesses as the hoped-for island turned out to be nothing more than a dense cloud bank. Once again, Emerald had remained elusive.
Did Emerald ever exist? Can whole islands disappear and reappear? The answer to this question is yes, it is possible.
One mechanism that may be responsible for this is seismic activity. There is a large, tectonically active region in this area that extends south of Macquarie Island. Large earthquakes have reportedly occurred in this area in the past and continue to do so today. In 1960, a magnitude 9.5 earthquake in Chile caused six islands off its coast to submerge suddenly.
Another process is volcanic activity. When Krakatoa erupted in 1883, a nearby island was completely submerged and new ones arose from the seabed.
Emerald is not the only vanishing island. There are 15 other Southern Ocean disappearing islands that have been published and disappeared from various nautical charts over the years. The most noted of these, the Nimrod Islands, Companies Islands, and Dougherty Island, have all exhibited the same disappearing-reappearing behavior.
Could these islands be merely misidentified natural phenomena, fog banks and icebergs? Perhaps so, in conditions where weather and visibility are bad. Despite this, we are still left with eyewitness accounts of those who have seen the rugged cliffs and rolling hills and have reported circling the island. With modern technology and satellite mapping Emerald still remains as elusive as ever. Is some dimensional rift responsible, allowing these islands to appear and then just as easily disappear again? We shall probably never know. It seems Emerald is destined to remain another of our vast ocean’s mysteries.
Written by Tony Lucas, Director of the New Zealand Un-Natural Mystery Centre, an independant UFO investigator, and a noted cryptozoologist.