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.