Disappearing Worlds

The image in the photograph is of a man walking beside a team of huskies carrying supplies on a sled.  In the distance a great expanse of wilderness including several darkened mountaintops stretch into a great expanse on the horizon.  It was one of two pictures taken of the islands across from an unforgiving arctic landscape.  The only problem?  Those mountains aren’t supposed to be there.

We’ve all heard stories of phantom hitchhikers, mysterious animals that vanish in the middle of nowhere, and ghostly cars and carriages, but what if the ghost you’re seeing is an entire continent?

Several northern locations such as Bradleyland and Crockerland were documented by arctic exploration ventures, but both Bradleyland and Crockerland, despite photographic evidence and testimony from explorers not only are nowhere to be found today, but nothing even remotely comparable to them exists that we have been able to discover.

The expeditions that discovered these landmasses also made several other discoveries prior to the dispute of the landmasses after aerial photography confirmed their disappearance.  So what is in the photograph?  The landmass has been rumored to be a floating island made of ice, but some geologists who have seen the photograph have said the land formations seem to be made of actual land given the high crests of the mountaintops and the valleys.  Still others maintain the formations may have been extremely large ice sheets that broke off and drifted away.

The Donald Baxter Macmillan expedition years later set out to find Crocker Land.  By this time the island had disappeared.  Unfortunately the expedition ran aground when the first ship’s captain, in a drunken stupor smashed the ship into the rocks and the ship, along with its crew.  As the expedition grew more tense, the Inuit guide Piugaattoq was shot and killed by one of the expedition leaders during an argument.  The entire expedition was considered a disaster.  As the team attempted to return, the weather turned bad and they were stranded for four years unable to get home.  During this time they never discovered the missing landmasses.

The disastrous expedition was reminiscent of a Russian voyage which also set out to verify the existence of a phantom island known in myths as Sannikov Land.  The expedition also met with a disastrous end with the island never being discovered.

Sannikov Land was fictionalized, however, in Vladimir Obruchev’s science fiction novel bearing the island’s name as a title (Sannikov Land 1926).  The story depicted an island within the crater of a volcano that retained tropical temperatures despite its being in Arctic surroundings.

What are we to think of these phantom lands?  Could the tectonic plates that push our lands across the seas also pull them down occasionally by means unknown to us?  Were these experienced explorers all uniformly mistaken by sheets of ice roaming across the sea?  If an island can sink, then, it would stand to reason that it can spring up as well.  What would we find on such a new world?  It’s possible that the ever-changing geological landscape will unearth untold treasures one day.