SYDNEY, Australia (CBS) -- Sandy Island in the Southwest Pacific, shown on many global maps has been found to not exist, scientists from the University of Sydney said.
A team of scientists, who were studying plate tectonics had some time on their hands and decided to visit the island, which lay along their route. Sandy Island appears on many of the global maps but not on their ship's map.
When the scientists went to the area they found only the Coral Sea.
"But when we actually went in there with our instruments and recorded the sea floor we actually found depths much, much greater than you would expect of an island. So, there was no island at all," said Sabin Zahirovic a Geo Scientist on board the research vessel.
The maps the scientists were using were based on data from the World Vector Shoreline Database and the CIA, as well as Google Earth.
"We wanted to find this island and prove its existence, or correct the map if need be because a lot of scientists depend on these maps. So, for example, a lot of the weather maps include this island which doesn't exist even though it's meant to be 26 kilometers (16 miles) wide, which is much larger than any of the nearby islands which do exist," said Zahirovic.
The phantom island has appeared in many scientific journals since 2000, scientists said.
The scientists have updated their own Earthbyte map without Sandy Island.
"It's completely possible that it was a human era in digitizing these maps at some stage and it's just entered the databases once and it's stuck around inside the databases because no scientific vessels have actually been in that region for a very, very long time. It's a very poorly explored part of the world like much of our oceans unfortunately. So, it was a great opportunity for us to actually update the maps, update the data and get a better understanding of the whole region and it's tectonic evolution as well," said Zahirovic.
Zahirovic believes that more research needs to be done in mapping Earth's oceans.
"The maps of Mars and the moon are a much higher resolution and coverage than what we have of our own oceans so, we really need to go back, send more vessels and research vessels out there to map the ocean floor and better understand what's out there," he said.
Apart from discovering that Sandy Island didn't exist, the team collected rock samples from an area of the eastern Coral Sea rarely explored and managed to map over 14,000 square kilometers (5,400 square miles) of ocean floor.