This week, a Reddit user taught the internet a little bit about geography when they spotted what appeared to be a black hole in the middle of the ocean. A user named kokoblocks discovered the topographical peculiarity when diving deep into Google Earth, and shared a screenshot from the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the subreddit /r/GoogleMaps with the remark “what the F*CK this looks nothing like an island.”
So, what exactly is it?
The perplexing coral spit known as Vostok Island is an atoll in the Pacific Ocean’s Southern Line Islands, Kiribati. The deserted island is located 640 kilometers (400 miles) from Tahiti and has a total surface area of 0.3 square kilometers (0.1 square miles). Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, a Russian Antarctic explorer sailing on the Vostok, found it in 1820. It was coveted for its guano (then-lucrative feces deposits) and was seized by the US under the 1856 Guano Act and later by Britain in 1873, though it was never used for anything.
It was designated a wildlife refuge in 1979 and is now home to unspoilt indigenous vegetation, making it the greatest of all the Line Islands as part of Kiribati. This could explain why the island appears so weird on Google Earth; when you zoom in, it nearly appears as if it has been censored, with its fringes appearing dark green and the main body seeming black. Certain photographs are sometimes blocked by satellite imaging sites in this manner, but it’s also possible that the strange look is merely a low-resolution image of a dense forest.
This latter hypothesis corresponds to the land’s composition, with beaches consisting of coral sand and debris and no fresh water deposits on the mainland. The island is mostly covered in Pisonia trees, which can reach heights of 30 meters (98 feet) and are so densely packed together that there is no room for other plants beneath them. The island’s appearance could so reflect a rather homogenous mat of Pisonia treetops.
Far from being a “black hole,” as some on Reddit called it, the odd spit of land is home to a remarkable array of fauna, including multiple species of booby and frigate birds, terns, rats, skinks, and coconut crabs, as well as green turtles on occasion.
So, not really remarkable – but there were some excellent alternative answers on Reddit.
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