The Undiscovered Island of the Polar Bear

Imagine if, suddenly, present-day explorers discovered an island previously unbeknownst to mankind.  If that sounds like something that last happened during the Elizabethan era, you’re off by a few centuries.  NASA discovered a “new” island a mere thirty-seven years ago.

In the early 1970s, NASA deployed the Landsat satellite, the first in a series of satellites designed to develop an on-going, updating record of the changes in the Earth’s landscape.  What they discovered early on, however, was not a change, but rather, an oversight.  Twenty kilometers off the northeastern shore of Labrador (Canada) lay a small, previously undiscovered island.   This tiny speck of land — 25 meters by 45 meters, roughly a quarter of an acre — extended the borders of Canada by about 25 square miles.

To confirm the existence of the island — and to check for inhabitants — a scientist, Dr. Frank Hall, was charged with exploring the land mass.   The official NASA page about the discovery sums it up, via a quote from deliberations in Canadian Parliament:

[Dr. Hall] was strapped into a harness and lowered from a helicopter down to the island. This was quite a frozen island and it was completely covered with ice. As he was lowered out of the helicopter a polar bear took a swat at him. The bear was on the highest point on the island and it was hard for him to see because it was white. Hall yanked at the cable and got himself hauled up. He said he very nearly became the first person to end his life on Landsat Island.

Some wanted to name the island “Polar Island,” after the lone known inhabitant (at least that day).  But in the end, the island was named Landsat Island — after its discoverer.

Bonus fact: Ever wanted to buy your own island?  You can — and relatively speaking, it’s not a bad deal.  This .74 acre island off the coast of Panama will run you $30,000 (U.S.), while a similarly sized parcel of Iowa costs almost $75,000.

Related: A $2,300 inflatable iceberg.

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