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Stommel, Henry, Lost Islands: The Story of Islands that Have Vanished from Nautical Charts. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1984. ISBN 0-7748-0210-3. 28x22cm., xii, 146p illustrated, cloth.  (303-6344 Memorial Rd,, Vancouver, BC V6N 3H4, Canada, $30.50)

This fascinating study concentrates on islands of questionable existence appearing on charts from about 1800, with some references to earlier times.  It is one of the most enjoyable books I have read in some time, being written with considerable wit.  For example, while at a Lufthansa ticket office at a Boston hotel Stommel observed Ganges Island prominently marked on a. globe, and muses about trying to book passage thereto.  His inquiries to the manufacturer globe have gone unanswered. He also spotted two non-existent islands on the 1981 National Geographic world map. They promised to delete them the next time!  The text brims with fascinating trivia.  For example, until 1910 the International Date Line was adjusted so that the non-existent Byers and Morrell Islands just west of the Hawaiian chain could share Hawaiian time.  Of course, there is a good deal of serious information on the 200 or so apocryphal islands which appeared on 19th-century charts.  Admiralty charts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans are reproduced on a folding sheet, and the author recommends following along with one's favorite charts and atlases.  I used my monstrous 1928 Atlante Internazionale del Touring Club Italiano and was astounded at how many fictitious islands were in that tome.  Lost Islands has only about 130 pages of actual text, making the book quite easy to read in an evening preferably one that is cold and stormy to accompany tales of whalers and sealers cautiously navigating fog-bound and icy seas.  My only quibble is that on p.123 he suggests that Faden's French is poor when Faden credits M. d'Apres de Mannevillette as a source.  Stommel speculates that Faden did not realize.that d'Apres means according to, whereas Faden was well acquainted wit Jean Baptiste Nicolas Denis d'Apres de Mannevillette.  No one with the remotest interest in early maps and charts could possibly be disappointed by this book.

David C. Jolly, 1987

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