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The lost island of Ferdinandea, AKA Graham Island, AKA Île Julia
June 11, 2013 9:34 AM   Subscribe

In 1831, the Mediterranean south of Sicily began to boil and bubble, and before long a volcanic island appeared, in full eruption. The English were the first to lay claim to the new island, naming it Graham Island, for James Graham, First Lord of the Admiralty. Then the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies laid claim to the island, removing the Union Jack and naming the island Ferdinandea, after King Ferdinand II. The next nation to claim the island was France, though initial French interest was in the geology of the newly emerged island (Google translation of French text, much from geologist Constant Prévost). France's choice of names was practical, Île Julia, as the island was formed in July. Spain also tried to lay claim to the newly formed island, setting the stage for a grand four-way dispute over its sovereignty, but before a single shot could be fired over its possession, geology rapidly had the last word on the matter. Graham Island/ Ferdinandea/ Île Julia crumbled in on itself and all but disappeared by the end of the year.

By January 1832, the volcanic island, which at its height measured 65-70 meters (213-229 feet) above sea level, had eroded to the point that the highest point was now under a meter of water. There was a brief reappearance in 1863, and the submerged peak was bombed during the 1986 attack on Libya becuase an American plane mistook it for a submarine (TV Tropes: Real Life example of "That's No Moon").

To prevent any such future confusion on it's possession, a 150kg marble plaque was placed on the underwater volcano in 2001, inscribed with the coats of arms of the House of Bourbon, the Italian Navy and the town of Sciacca, and with the words: "This piece of land, once Ferdinandea, was and shall always belong to the Sicilian people." (Google auto-translation; original Italian blog post). The year prior, an Italian student minted a few Ferdinandea “One Penny” coins, after reading an article on "the existence of the ghost island."

Scientists have since discovered that the entirety of the volcano is huge, "the base of the structure was 30km long and 25km wide, spanning an area larger than the US capital and making it Italy's largest underwater volcano." Ferdinandea was actually one of a number of fumaroles, openings in the Earth's crust that emit steam and gases.
posted by filthy light thief (16 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
And I thought Terry Pratchett wrote fiction.
posted by marienbad at 9:38 AM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fun fact: The initial eruption of was hydrovolcanic (Surtseyan), but the later eruptions were more Strombolian. This painting shows Graham Island in the Strombolian phase of activity.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:41 AM on June 11, 2013


And I thought Terry Pratchett wrote fiction.

I'm constantly astonished at how much of the Discworld is a direct parody of events that happened in the real world. An awful lot of research goes into every one of his books, particularly the later ones that focus on a specific facet of culture. Unseen Academicals, for instance, is chock-full of references to the history and culture of football (soccer, that is) that passed over my head the first time I read it.
posted by spielzebub at 10:21 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


How on earth does 200 feet of rock erode away in a single year!?
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:22 AM on June 11, 2013



How on earth does 200 feet of rock erode away in a single year!?


Some of that loss may be caused by the earth swelling down below the island, a magma chamber emptying below can cause the land to subside. I would also guess that volcanic rock probably weathers more quickly than other types of rock?

Also, I've been to Sciacca! I wish I had known about this, I would have looked into a dive trip! Sicily is awesome!
posted by joecacti at 10:35 AM on June 11, 2013


Mother Nature doesn't give a damn for your petty politics.

...something, something, climate change
posted by BlueHorse at 10:39 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I never knew about this. Awesome.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:40 AM on June 11, 2013


I claim Fernanadania for MYSELF! All kneel before your rightful King of Fernanadania before the Little Puddle forms again! We will fight, Fernanadanians! All brave and true for freedom!

Oh hell.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 10:43 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fun fact: The initial eruption of was hydrovolcanic (Surtseyan)

Hey, I recognize that name!
posted by carsonb at 11:16 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


And that, children, is how Mother Nature says "No, you can't have nice things" until you learn to play nice.

Wonder what she's gonna do to us now.
posted by infini at 11:17 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


In addition to Terry Pratchett, Larry Hama did something like this too.
posted by snottydick at 11:46 AM on June 11, 2013


This needs Nelson standing near the island, pointing and saying "Ha ha!"
posted by misterpatrick at 11:59 AM on June 11, 2013


This needs Nelson standing near the island, pointing and saying "England expects that every man will do his duty!"
posted by languagehat at 1:21 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that link in the third paragraph has damaged my eyes...
posted by welovelife at 3:12 PM on June 11, 2013


We have always been at war with East Ferdinandea!
posted by blue_beetle at 4:49 PM on June 11, 2013


It stuck its head up out of the water just long enough to find there hadn't been any real change in the last 2000+ years and went back under the sea to report, "Nah - they're still fighting over a piece of dirt - better wait another 1,000 years before we check on them again."

I loves me my Sir Terry Pratchett.
posted by aryma at 5:36 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


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