• Marine Conservation
  • Volunteer and Adventure

Islands That Have Disappeared: A Tragic Loss to the World

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: March 16, 2023

Islands have always been a source of fascination and wonder for people. From tropical paradises to volcanic islands and remote outposts, islands offer a unique and enchanting experience that captivates the imagination. Unfortunately, not all islands are destined to exist forever, and some have already disappeared, leaving nothing but memories and a tragic reminder of the power of nature and human impact.

What Causes an Island to Disappear?

Islands can disappear due to natural disasters, climate change, and human activities. Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis, can cause entire islands to sink or be wiped out. Climate change, including rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events, is also contributing to the loss of islands worldwide. Human activities, such as deforestation, land use changes, and the building of dams and reservoirs, can cause soil erosion and alter water flows, leading to the loss of islands.

Famous Islands That Have Disappeared

One of the most famous lost islands is Atlantis, a legendary island mentioned by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. According to the legend, Atlantis was a prosperous and powerful civilization that sank into the sea in a single day and night of misfortune. While there is no evidence to support the existence of Atlantis, many researchers believe that the legend was inspired by a catastrophic volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini around 1600 BCE.

Another lost island is Lohachara Island in India’s Sundarbans delta. The island, which was home to over 10,000 people, disappeared in 2006 due to rising sea levels caused by climate change. The island’s inhabitants were forced to relocate to the mainland, losing their homes, livelihoods, and cultural heritage.

Sandy Island in New Caledonia was another island that was discovered on maps but never existed in reality. The island was first recorded by Captain James Cook in 1774 and appeared on maps for over two centuries. However, in 2012, a team of scientists sailed to the location of the island and found only open ocean.

The Kiribati Islands, a group of low-lying coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean, are at risk of disappearing due to rising sea levels. The islands, which are home to over 100,000 people, are already experiencing flooding and saltwater intrusion, making it difficult to grow crops and access clean water. The Kiribati government is working to relocate its citizens to other countries, but the loss of their ancestral land and cultural identity is a painful and ongoing tragedy.

Tjornuvik beach on Streymoy island, Faroe Islands, Denmark. Landscape photography

The Impact of Disappearing Islands

The disappearance of islands has a profound impact on the environment, biodiversity, communities, and economies. Islands are home to unique and endangered species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. The loss of islands can lead to the extinction of these species and the disruption of delicate ecosystems.

Communities that depend on islands for their homes, livelihoods, and cultural heritage are also affected. Disappearing islands force people to relocate, often to unfamiliar and inhospitable places, leading to the loss of social networks, traditions, and ways of life. The economic impact of disappearing islands is also significant, as many island communities rely on fishing, tourism, and agriculture for their livelihoods.

Efforts to Prevent Island Disappearance

Efforts to prevent the disappearance of islands are focused on environmental policies, community engagement, sustainable development practices, and climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Environmental policies, such as protected areas and conservation efforts, can help preserve ecosystems and protect endangered species. Community engagement is also crucial, as local communities are often the best stewards of their land and can provide valuable insights into how to manage resources sustainably.

Sustainable development practices, such as eco-tourism, organic farming, and renewable energy, can provide economic opportunities while minimising negative impacts on the environment. Climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving coastal defences, and building resilient infrastructure, are also essential to prevent further loss of islands.

GVI’s volunteer programs support coastal conservation by promoting sustainable practices and conservation efforts. Volunteers work alongside local communities to develop strategies for protecting marine ecosystems and restoring degraded habitats. By participating in activities such as coral reef monitoring, beach cleanups, and sea turtle conservation, volunteers help to collect data and raise awareness about the impacts of human activities on marine ecosystems. GVI’s programs also provide education and training to local communities on sustainable practices such as eco-tourism, organic farming, and renewable energy, which can provide economic opportunities while minimising negative impacts on the environment. Through these efforts, GVI is helping to protect and preserve the natural beauty and biodiversity of the world’s islands and coastal areas.

The disappearance of islands is a tragic loss to the world, and it highlights the urgent need to address environmental degradation and climate change. While efforts to prevent island disappearance are underway, more needs to be done to protect these precious natural treasures and the communities that depend on them. By working together and taking action to preserve the environment, we can help ensure that future generations can enjoy the wonder and beauty of islands around the world.

Article by Petrina Darrah

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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