The Search for the Irish ‘Atlantis’

Friday December 13, 2019 Written by James

It’s hard to imagine ‘hidden islands’ anymore, if only because the world’s magic tends to diminish when you map every square inch of it – from space. But rumours do persist about a mist-shrouded isle off the coast of Ireland. In fact, they’ve been persisting for the last 700 years…

The island in question is ‘Hy-Brasil’, also known as the ‘Irish Atlantis’. Since the 14th century, explorers and cartographers have placed it roughly 321 kilometres west of the Irish coast, despite the fact Hy-Brasil – not to point too fine a point on things – doesn’t actually exist.

Like all good mythological islands, there have been plenty of tall tales and storm-wracked nautical sightings. Three 15th century expeditions set out to find Hy-Brasil (all unsuccessfully) and Italian explorer John Cabot wrote about it in his letters, referencing a world that was “discovered in the past by the men from Bristol, who found [Hy-Brasil]”. In 1674, a sailor named Captain Nisbet claimed to have actually stumbled on the island and met the locals: one solitary magician and some enormous black rabbits.

Science, of course, offers a few explanations. Some geologists have suggested that Hy-Brasil is actually ‘Porcupine Bank’, a very un-magical strip of cold water reef. Others reckon the Atlantic island of Rockall is the culprit.

Researcher Sean Lynch has literally written the book on Hy-Brasil, and in 2007 he stationed cameras at strategic points along the Irish coast, hoping to catch a glimpse of the phantom island. The results didn’t prove Hy-Brasil existed…but they didn’t disprove it either.