An island in the south Pacific that was listed on maps for at least a decade does not exist, a group of Australian scientists has discovered.

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Sandy Island has been listed on marine charts and world maps for years, sitting between Australia and New Caledonia in the Coral Sea.

The island is shown to be 16 miles long on Google maps, but when a team from the University of Sydney visited the area they found ocean with a depth of 4,620 foot.

The crew of the Southern Surveyor sailed straight past the spot where they island was supposed to be and became suspicious when navigation charts showed deep ocean where land should have been.

The Times Atlas of the World identifies the phantom isle as Sable Island, and weather maps place it 700 miles from the coast of Brisbane, Australia.

According to Australian newspaper reports the "island" sits in French territorial waters but has not featured on any French government maps.

Speaking on Western Australia Today, Dr Steven Micklethwaite explained that his team was investigating the sea bed around Australia and decided to head to an unusual island listed on their charts.

"We checked the coastline database, you could see it there but when you zoom in on it it's just a black blob, Google has no photos from it.

"It's just a sort of slit in the earth so we went upstairs, and the navigation charts didn't have it on. So who do we trust, Google Earth or the navigation chart? So we decided to sail through the island."

Dr Micklethwaite claimed it was most likely a cartographic error but also claimed that one of the sources of the world coastline database is the CIA.

The director of charting services for the Australian Hydrographic Service has said the coastline database incorporates individual reports that are old or contain errors.

He admits that the databases are taken with a "pinch of salt" and noted that some map makers include phantom streets to combat copyright infringement.

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