Seasonal and phantom islands
March 23, 2020 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Lake Superior (Wikipedia) is the world’s largest freshwater lake, and its largest island is Isle Royale (Wikipedia), whose largest lake is called Siskiwit (Google maps), whose largest island is called Ryan (Google maps). Ryan Island is reportedly home to a seasonal pond called Moose Flats that, when flooded, contains its own island—Moose Boulder. This makes it “the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake in the world.” At least, that's how it was represented on Wikipedia and Atlas Obscura, until an intrepid mother and son unraveled a geographic hoax (Atlas Obscura). This temporary/ mythical island is not yet included in Andrew Pekler's Phantom Islands interactive sonic map (also via AO).

Roger Dickey, and his mom, Ellie Talburtt, were recently interviewed by NPR on their expedition to find (or debunk) Moose Boulder.

If you, like some others, think it would have been better to find Moose Boulder in a wetter time of the year, you can search for yourself and you'll find solitude in Isle Royale National Park, one of the least visited National Parks (Quirky Travel Guy, updated with 2019 stats). And if you do want to trek out there, Isle Royale Forums can help prepare you for the trip, or you can marvel at photographs of the island.

If you'd like to do virtual tourism and go on more sonic explorations, here's Andrew Pekler's Soundcloud page and his Bandcamp site.
posted by filthy light thief (23 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd argue that Lake Michigan-Huron is actually the largest freshwater lake in the world, but maybe I'm just trolling.
posted by tivalasvegas at 11:24 AM on March 23 [3 favorites]


Not to be confused with Treasure Island/Mindemoya which is the world's largest island in a lake (Lake Mindemoya) on an island (Manitoulin Island) in a lake (Lake Huron).

The link is to Wikipedia which given TFA might be suspect, but I remember hearing about this in high school in the 90's so if it is also a myth it is a fairly persistent one.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:32 AM on March 23 [3 favorites]


A superior post.

Waka waka.

I didn't know about the Moose Boulder story. Thanks!

Last summer I got this quickie shot of Isle Royale as we were approaching Thunder Bay on a nice clear day.

I've been toying with the idea of visiting for a while, so that got me looking into options for getting there. Here's a slightly choppier trip.

Related: the moose and wolves of Isle Royale.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:44 AM on March 23 [4 favorites]


Years ago I kayaked out to and then around the Isle. Managed to visit Sikiwit but the coolest spot was Menagerie Island and lighthouse. A tiny speck of land where the last keeper raised something like 12 children. Fascinating history.
posted by misterpatrick at 11:59 AM on March 23 [2 favorites]


When we hiked Isle Royale in 1986, we made a big point of The Largest Island In The Largest Lake, &c. At the time, we figure there was probably a rain puddle on the only island we could see, and didn't care to push the envelope.

Last year I scanned in the blurry photos (it was a Kodak Disc Camera, for crying out loud) from that trip, along with pictures from summer camp on Lake of the Woods, and all the memories of the sun and breeze and quiet came back to me. *sigh*
posted by wenestvedt at 12:21 PM on March 23 [8 favorites]


"Seasonal Phantom Island" is an outstanding sockpuppet name though.
posted by mhoye at 12:25 PM on March 23 [11 favorites]


This makes it “the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake in the world.”
Such a claim is very dependent on qualifications and definitions. You can't just drop the "freshwater" part, or you have to consider the Caspian Sea the largest lake in the world, and even if you exclude the Caspian Sea, Lake Superior is then only the largest lake if (a) you count by surface area rather than volume (otherwise Lake Baikal and Lake Tanganyika are larger due to greater depth), and (b) you count Lakes Michigan and Huron separately (some argue that they are one large body of water divided into two major parts by the narrow Straits of Mackinac.)

As written, I would say the claim fails by improperly excluding the Caspian Sea.
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:59 PM on March 23 [3 favorites]


Hmm hmm, "seasonal island" :)

This is slightly similar to https://www.openstreetmap.org/relation/9733824#map=13/60.3411/22.2370 that is not seasonal and located in the sea. Name "Kakskerta" literally means "two times" and it is an island containing a lake containing two islands. One is named "small island", other "large island".
posted by costello at 1:14 PM on March 23


Isle Royale Forums can help prepare you for the trip, or you can marvel at photographs of the island.

There are lots of great photos lurking in there! I highly recommend checking them out.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:20 PM on March 23


There's a hole, there's a hole, in the log in the hole at the bottom of the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake in the world.
posted by nathan_teske at 1:26 PM on March 23 [6 favorites]


If you're looking at satellite photos and wondering why all the parallel lines, it's because it's one side of a rift valley that stopped rifting a while back.
posted by echo target at 1:27 PM on March 23 [7 favorites]


When he visits more populous tourist destinations, he goes hunting for the unbeaten path, like the time he trekked to the westernmost point in Portugal—also the westernmost point in continental Europe—just to watch the sun set.

LOL. Cabo da Roca is about the most beaten path there is. It's not exactly an adventure to get there.
posted by chavenet at 1:31 PM on March 23 [3 favorites]


“Take you, rock,” he said. He squinted at it.

Ah yes, here we have the nasty big flat rock, sitting doing nothing, just amoral and dull, and it sits like an island in the polluted pool. The pool is a tiny lake on the little island, and the island is in a drowned crater. The crater is a volcanic crater, the volcano forms part of an island in a big inland sea. The inland sea is like a giant lake on a continent and the continent is like an island sitting in the seas of the planet. The planet is like an island in the sea of space within its system, and the system floats within the cluster, which is like an island in the sea of the galaxy, which is an like an island in the archipelago of its local group, which is an island within the universe; the universe is like an island floating in a sea of space in the continua, and they float like islands in the Reality, and …

But down through the Continua, the Universe, the Local Group, the Galaxy, the Cluster, the System, the Planet, the Continent, the Island, the Lake, the Island … the rock remained. AND THAT MEANT THE ROCK, THE CRAPPY AWFUL ROCK HERE WAS THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE, THE CONTINUA, THE WHOLE REALITY!
Use of Weapons, Iain M. Banks
posted by mbrubeck at 1:36 PM on March 23 [7 favorites]


"Lake Superior (Wikipedia) is the world’s largest freshwater lake"

Whoa now qualifiers needed, as I remind that Lake Baikal has more than twice as much water as Lake Superior. (cf: Lake Superior, in turn, has more water than all the other Great Lakes, combined) Geologic focus of this post noted, the vastness of Baikal supports a species of freshwater seals!

To be sure, though, the size of the Gitchie Gumee is hard for me to comprehend. I live next to Lake Michigan, which swallows the horizons. Superior is more than double that?!?

I also knew of Superior's fame with the island-in-a-lake-in-an-island iterations, though never did I hear about Moose Boulder. Most interestingly, though -- a mother & son exploration team? That's fantastic!! Is there a precedent for other mother-son exploration teams through history?
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 2:20 PM on March 23 [7 favorites]


nathan_teske: There's a hole, there's a hole, in the log in the hole at the bottom of the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake in the world.

...and the bog down in the valley, o
posted by capricorn at 3:20 PM on March 23 [3 favorites]


I think that un-named Arctic island that no-one has ever visited is winning for aloof attitude.
posted by ovvl at 3:54 PM on March 23 [1 favorite]


A similiarly mysterious lake in the Great Lakes area is the Lake on the Mountain which, according to the brochure, "defies all known geographical and geological theory". The lake has no obvious source of water and was long thought to be bottomless.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:07 PM on March 23 [6 favorites]


“the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake on the largest island in the largest lake in the world.”

Walt Crawlers and Faygo.
posted by clavdivs at 7:02 PM on March 23


Something that intrigues me is that there's a marina/landing on the island named Windigo, which I'm assuming is an alternate spelling of Wendigo, the man-eating monster of the north. There's gotta be a story behind that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:44 PM on March 23 [2 favorites]


I think they just thought it was cool. *shrug*

It's one of the places that the boats out from the Minnesota side actually stop (or did in the before times....).
posted by wenestvedt at 6:21 AM on March 24


RE: Treasure Island in Lake Mindemoya, it's certainly real, although I've only ever seen it in the distance from one of the many campgrounds and beaches along the edge of the lake (really beautiful place for family swimming for northern ontario... clear water, nice sand, and quite shallow as you go out).

As for it's qualifications: you'd need to call it THE largest island in A lake, on THE largest island in A freshwater lake in the world. First claim is easily verifiable by satellite image, second one verified here (by area).
posted by Nutri-Matic Drinks Synthesizer at 6:27 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


This is land, not water, but Kurt Kohlstedt at 99% Invisible writes about exclaves and enclaves, territories that are entirely within other territories. Much of that essay also appears on a recent podcast episode Map Quests: Political, Physical, and Digital complete with a transcript.
posted by Jesse the K at 1:40 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]


THE largest island in A freshwater lake

I've often heard Manitoulin Island described as "the largest island in a freshwater lake," which is undoubtedly true, but seems to be underselling it: I don't think the "freshwater" limitation is necessary. Even if you include saltwater lakes such as the Caspian Sea, Manitoulin seems to be the largest island on a lake. Indeed, all the islands of the Caspian Sea combined are not as large as Manitoulin Island (if Wikipedia is correct). I had also wondered if at some point Vozrozhdeniya Island was briefly larger than Manitoulin, as the Aral Sea emptied, but the largest figure I could find for Vozrozhdeniya at any point before it joined the mainland was still smaller than Manitoulin.

Am I missing a larger island in a saltwater lake somewhere, or is Manitoulin indeed the largest island in a lake of any type?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:13 PM on March 27


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