This Interactive Map Lets You Listen to the Sounds of Mysterious ‘Phantom Islands’

iStock
iStock

We like to think we’ve already discovered everything there is to discover on Earth, but have we really? Throughout the course of history, a number of islands have been spotted and documented by early explorers, only to never be seen again. These territories are known as “phantom islands,” but as artist Andrew Pekler notes, their existence has never been verified.

In exploring the legends surrounding these elusive—and perhaps imaginary—islands, Pekler created an online “sonic atlas” of what these places may very well sound like. His work was commissioned by French museum Jeu de Paume for the exhibition “Fourth Worlds: Imaginary Ethnography in Music and Sound.”

“Poised somewhere between cartographical fact and maritime fiction, they haunted seafarers’ maps for hundreds of years, inspiring legends, fantasies, and counterfactual histories,” Pekler says of the phantom islands in an online description of the project.

Viewers can use their computer's mouse to navigate the map and zoom in on any islands that seem particularly intriguing. You can also enter “cruise mode” to be taken on an audio tour of all the phantom islands documented by Pekler. A brief history is given for each island, and some of them are pretty spooky.

One phantom island in the Gulf of Mexico, Bermeja, first appeared on maps in the 1530s but wasn’t seen again after the 16th century, according to research by Pekler and his team. The Mexican government sent a survey vessel to try to find it in 1997, but when nothing was uncovered, a few Mexican senators claimed America’s CIA may have destroyed it in a bid to lay claim to the territory and secure control over offshore oil and gas fields. Not long after, one of the senators who demanded further investigation was driving in his car when he was run off the road and killed by an unknown assailant, which spawned a number of conspiracy theories.

These stories are only made more chilling by the haunting chimes, bizarre bird calls, and underwater sounds that accompany them. To see it for yourself, check out Pekler’s website.

This Website Allows You to See the Traditional Indigenous Territories and Languages in Your Region

Native Land
Native Land

Within North America and many other regions colonized by Europeans, the indigenous territorial borders that once divided the land have largely disappeared. Though non-Native people might learn about the particular groups that once lived in their immediate area in school, most of us aren’t aware of the exact geography of which areas were traditionally occupied by which groups across the U.S. and the world. A mapping project called Native Land is aiming to change that, as Atlas Obscura reports.

The interactive site was created by Canadian mapping specialist Victor Temprano, who grew up within the territory of the Okanagan people in British Columbia. It features several different ways to explore the boundaries of indigenous history: through territory, language, and historic treaties. Each of the colorful blobs that represent the approximate boundaries of each territory, language, or treaty contains a link that lets you further explore the area, linking out to tribes’ websites, government information about particular treaties, and more.

The map allows you to see the huge diversity of indigenous people whose history has often been erased and forgotten, and the overlaps between tribes and languages in different areas. While the map doesn't yet tackle the entire world, it has a wealth of information on Canada, the U.S., Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia, and some places in South America and Greenland.

Colored overlays showing territory and language boundaries in the western U.S. and Canada
Traditional territories and languages in the western U.S. and Canada
Native Land

A map of the Northeastern U.S. showing traditional territories and languages
Traditional territory and language boundaries in the northeastern U.S.
Native Land

Temprano doesn’t claim Native Land is a definitive guide—or even a complete one—and welcomes any community feedback on the content presented. He told Atlas Obscura that he has gotten thousands of emails over the past few years suggesting changes, and has worked to incorporate that information into the map.

“I’ve learned that the idea of ‘traditional territory’ is actually very slippery. It can mean a strongly defined official boundary (Squamish nation, for instance), a general sense of land familiarity or habitation (some Métis people), a historically inhabited area, or it can be shorthand for how people identify themselves,” he writes on the Native Land blog. “Above all, I’ve tried to make the territory layer about self-identification. Whenever people feel they or their peoples are not represented, I’ve attempted to add them … So approach the layer with caution, and don’t treat it as an academic set of truths—if you can help it. It’s a good place to get started, but it’s really about you taking the initiative to learn more and think carefully about these questions.”

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

The Hottest Day in Each State

NOAA Climate.gov/NCEI
NOAA Climate.gov/NCEI

Here’s the good news: By the end of July, most areas of the U.S. will likely have already experienced the hottest day of the year, Newsweek reports. But if you happen to live in parts of Texas, southern Florida, or the West Coast—where the hottest day typically occurs between August 1 and September 1—you’re not in the clear just yet.

A map of the U.S. showing the warmest day of the year by location was created using climate data from the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Climate map of the U.S.

To enlarge the map click here.

NOAA Climate.gov/NCEI
Alaska and Hawaii
NOAA Climate.gov/NCEI

It wasn’t just temperature that was considered, either. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), precipitation, snowfall, and frost and freeze dates from 1981 to 2010 were also taken into account to create climate normals, or averages of several climatological variables.

Looking at the different colors represented on the map, it’s clear that the hottest day of the year varies greatly—from the beginning of June to the end of October—depending on the region.

Texas is an especially unique case because its hottest day varies from June 1 to September 1. One region bordering the Mexican state of Chihuahua tends to see its hottest day pretty early on, in the first half of June, while another region near Corpus Christi tends to heat up at the tail end of August. That’s also the case for parts of coastal California, Hawaii, and Louisiana.

Different environmental factors are to blame for the disparity, such as the monsoon season’s effect on temperatures in the Southwest. The hottest period in that region tends to be in June, right before the clouds and rain roll in, NOAA notes.

Although the map outlines a “normal window” for hottest temperature based on historical data, there are always exceptions to the rule.

[h/t Newsweek]

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