This week, a Reddit user educated the internet on basic geography when they spotted what seemed to be a black hole smack dab in the midst of the ocean. A user called kokoblocks discovered the topographical peculiarity when diving deep into Google Earth, and shared a screengrab from the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the subreddit /r/GoogleMaps with the remark “what the F*CK this looks nothing like an island.”
The perplexing spit of coral known as Vostok Island is an atoll in the Pacific Ocean’s Southern Line Islands, Kiribati. The deserted island is located 640 kilometers (400 miles) south of Tahiti and has a land area of about 0.3 square kilometers (0.1 square miles). Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, a Russian Antarctic explorer traveling on the Vostok, found it in 1820. It was seized by the US under the 1856 Guano Act and later by the UK in 1873, both for its guano (then-lucrative feces deposits), though no one ever used it.
As a part of Kiribati, it was proclaimed a natural sanctuary in 1979 and is currently home to unspoilt indigenous vegetation, making it the finest of all the Line Islands. This might explain the island appears peculiar on Google Earth since when you zoom in on it, it almost looks censored, with its perimeter seeming dark green and the main body appearing black. Certain photographs are occasionally blocked in this fashion by satellite imaging sites, but it is also likely that the strange impression is merely a low-resolution image of a dense forest.
This last theory fits neatly with the land’s nature, which includes coral sand and rubble beaches and no freshwater deposits on the mainland. Pisonia trees, which may reach heights of 30 meters (98 feet) and are so densely packed that there is little room for other vegetation beneath them, cover the majority of the island. As a result, the island’s appearance may resemble a homogeneous mat of Pisonia trees.
The strange spit of land, far from being a “black hole,” as some on Reddit called it, is home to a startling diversity of animals, including multiple kinds of booby and frigate birds, terns, rats, skinks, and coconut crabs, as well as green turtles that occasionally visit its beaches. So, not that exceptional — but Reddit had some fantastic alternate reasons.