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The Mysterious Island of Hy-Brasil

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Ravi loves writing within the cusp of relationships, history, and the bizarre, where boundaries are blurred and possibilities are immense.

Does the mythical island Hy-Brasil really exist off the coast of Ireland?

Does the mythical island Hy-Brasil really exist off the coast of Ireland?

Does a Mythical Island Really Exist off the Coast of Ireland?

I suppose most of us would have heard about Atlantis. Atlantis was a mysterious island described by the Greek philosopher Plato that was home to an advanced civilization. Then one day as the story goes, the island sank beneath the sea without a trace.

That said, there is another strange, disappearing island from ancient times which supposedly sits in the North Atlantic Ocean about 321 km (200 miles) off the coast, which can be seen on multiple maps spanning between 1325 right up to the 19th century. It was called Hy-Brasil and is Ireland’s equivalent of Atlantis.

Yes, the name is confusing and looks eerily similar to the South American country of Brazil. But rest assured, the ancient mariners did not make the mistake of assuming that South America’s Brazil was a small island off the Irish coast.

In fact, the name ‘Brazil’ is a variation of the old Celtic word, ‘Breasal’ which means the ‘High King’. And on old maps, Hy-Brasil was drawn as a circular island with a river or channel going across the center. It was supposedly a promised land of saints or a paradise where an advanced civilization lived (uncanny resemblance to Atlantis isn’t it?).

Now here is the thing; The island has never been found to date despite multiple explorers searching for the fabled land since the 14th century. Each one of them has either returned empty-handed or without any solid evidence substantiating their claim. Stories about the island have circulated throughout Europe for centuries and all the maps seemed to perfectly pinpoint its position. But strangely it has never been visible to mortals to date.

Is it a legend or does the island actually exist? No one seems to have an answer to this question yet.

As the legend about the mysterious island goes, the island is forever blanketed in thick fog and invisible to the naked eye from the mainland or high seas.

As the legend about the mysterious island goes, the island is forever blanketed in thick fog and invisible to the naked eye from the mainland or high seas.

The Mystery of Hy-Brasil

The island was first depicted in the map of Genoese cartographer Angelino Dulcert, in 1325 where it was identified as ‘Bracile’.It also later appeared in the Catalan Atlas in 1375 as ‘Illa de brasil’.

Even the famous Piri Reis map of 1513 included the island off the west coast of Ireland. In addition, two maps from 1595, the Ortelius Map of Europe and the Europa Mercator Map, both continue to situate a round island, named ‘Brasil’, to the west of Ireland.

As the legend about the mysterious island goes, the island is forever blanketed in thick fog and invisible to the naked eye from the mainland or high seas. Only one day, every 7 years the fog clears, and the island is visible for a short time. Even then, however, the island is impossible to reach.

There are also fantastic myths surrounding the inhabitants of this mythical island. Some say Hy Brasil is the home of the gods of Irish folklore; others say it is the home of some advanced civilization run by priests who possess ancient knowledge and live in paradise. Some also say St. Brendan's famous voyage to find the ‘Promised Land’ may have been Hy-Brasil.

Since the 13th-century explorers have tried every trick in the book to find this fabled place.

Since the 13th-century explorers have tried every trick in the book to find this fabled place.

Many Explorers Have Tried to Find It in Vain

Since the 13th-century explorers have tried every trick in the book to find this fabled place.

In 1480, John Jay Jr. departed from Bristol, England on a journey to find the fabled island. He returned empty-handed after spending two months at sea. Later two more ships, ‘the Trinity’ and ‘the George’ departed from Bristol on an expedition to find Hy-Brasil with no success either.

Later almost two centuries later another full-fledged expedition was launched by the Scottish sea captain, John Nisbet and he interestingly reported that he and his crew were able to ‘spot’ the island. He also sent a party of four ashore, where the sailors spent the entire day on the island.

The crew and the captain claimed that the island was inhabited by large black rabbits and a mysterious magician who lived in a large stone castle by himself. The magician is said to have given a lot of gold and silver coins to the sailors.

A follow-up expedition by another captain Alexander Johnson also supported Nisbet’s claims about the large black rabbits running amok on the island. The description by Johnson and his men was nearly identical to that of Nesbit’s crew.

The last sighting of the island was made in 1872 by Robert O’Flaherty and T.J. Westropp. Westropp claimed to have visited the island three times and was so captivated by its beauty that he brought his family with him to see it in person. There, they all witnessed the island disappearing before their very eyes.

In the following years, Hy-Brasil would retreat into anonymity as no further observations were made and cartographers gradually removed it from their maps.

Does it really exist? There have been many theories over the years.

Does it really exist? There have been many theories over the years.

Does It Exist?

So, we come to the big question, does it really exist? There have been many theories over the years.

Some believe Brasil was actually Baffin Island. They support this theory by stating that over the years Baffin Island has gradually shifted to the west in later maps. But again Hy-Brasil is far smaller than Baffin Island. Some others believe that the island has now sunk into the sea same as Atlantis and needs to be excavated.

Others say that it might just be an optical illusion. Meteorologists have found that during certain special climatic conditions, mirages can appear at sea when layers of hot and cold air refract or bend light rays. This may create the illusion of an island appearing or disappearing.

And for those who believe in Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is Hy-Brasil never existed. It is simply a case of mistaken identity that continued over the centuries unknowingly.

Whatever it is, it is a peculiar riddle of history that is bound to get discussed and debated until proven or disproven.

Sources

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 Ravi Rajan

Comments

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 06, 2021:

Thanks Chitrangada

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 06, 2021:

A fascinating read of the mysterious island of Hy-Brasil. Your topics are always so interesting, informative and unique.

Thank you for sharing.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 06, 2021:

Thanks, Linda for your kind comments.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 06, 2021:

Thanks, Rosina.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 06, 2021:

Thanks Peggy for your kind comments

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 06, 2021:

Thanks, John.I am glad you liked it.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 06, 2021:

Thank you for sharing another interesting article, Ravi. I love the topics that you choose.

Rosina S Khan on September 06, 2021:

Hy-Brasil seems to be a very mysterious island. So many facts about it exist from the old centuries until today. We will never know for sure if there was really an island like that. Yet the facts about it are so fascinating and exhilarating. Thanks for sharing this article, Ravi, full of curiosity and enigma.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 06, 2021:

What a fascinating story! The fact of Hy-Brasil placement on maps, and then over time disappearing from maps, adds to the mystery. Is it fact or fiction? For now, the mystery continues. I agree with John. You do find interesting subjects for your articles!

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 06, 2021:

Ravi, you find the most interesting subjects for your articles. I am always entertained and my knowledge is improved by each one. Hy-Brasil is intriguing to say the least.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on September 06, 2021:

Thanks, Bill. I agree with you on that !!!!!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 06, 2021:

Oh, those Irish and their legends....probably most of them began after about six pints of ale at a pub. LOL Fun read!

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