Russian island sparks mystery after disappearing from Google Maps

Russian island sparks mystery after disappearing from Google Maps

Related video: Google Maps denies revealing images of Russian military infrastructure


As the war in Ukraine continues following Russia’s illegal invasion in February, it’s been revealed that one island to the east of Russia has been covered by a black smudge on Google Maps, prompting speculation as to why that might be.

Jeannette Island, named after the ship which took US explorer George E. De Long to the area in 1881, can be viewed just fine in Google Maps’ ‘default’ map type when looking around the East Siberian Sea.

However, taking a look through the satellite images shows a black mark over the island, and so of course, conspiracies have since surfaced online.

Some outlets have pointed out past confusion and tension over who owns the territory, as while De Long spotted it in the late 19th century, Russia announced it was part of the Russian Federation not long after an expedition from 1910-1915.

Nowadays, the US recognises the island as being Russian territory.

While the blot on Google Maps has led some to suspect the site houses a secret Russian base – seeing as the tech company has censored military sites before - images shared online from 2017 suggest what actually happens on the 0.5 sq km area is pretty unremarkable:

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The investigative journalists over at Bellingcat offered up a possible explanation back in 2019, when they said “the answer probably lies in a simple error with the USGS/Nasa Landsat program” which provides the satellite imagery to Google.

“When there is a data loss or errors during the capturing of satellite imagery or its transfer, various colours and shapes are used to illustrate the error.

“For example, Google Maps shows a strange yellow square along the border between Afghanistan and China.

“This is due to an error of rendering satellite imagery onto the map, rather than intentional censorship,” they said.

Meanwhile a Google spokesperson declined to comment when they were approached by The Sun, meaning the conspiracies could well continue for a little while longer.

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