Historical Events  Geography
Bermeja Island

The Gulf of Mexico

Bermeja Island does not exist

Where is Bermeja Island?

There's a curious anomaly regarding an island which appears on maps drawn in the 16th century. Situated off the North coast on the Yucatan Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico, it's called Bermeja Island.

The problem? No one can find it in real life.

Neither a detailed survey in 1997 followed by an extensive one in 2009 conducted by the National Autonomous University of Mexico turned anything up, despite there being a very compelling incentive to do so - oil rights from the 200 mile border surrounding it.

The first mention of the island was on a map published in Madrid in 1539.


Alonso de Chaves wrote in 1540 that the island looks "blondish or reddish" from a distance. Also, in 1844 British maps show it as sinking sixty fathoms below.

There is a conspiracy theory that the CIA destroyed the island in order to expand the US territory, since the island would have limited the area claimed were it present as depicted. The story here is that in the 1970's it  served as this marker, but disappeared 20 years later aong with some treaty documents defining the oil rights in the region.

The BBC ran a documentary podcast on it: World Stories: Mexico's Missing Island.

Bermeja Island is missing. This strategically important island was clearly visible on maps of the Gulf of Mexico until the middle of the 20th century but it's now gone. BBC Mundo's David Cuen goes in search.

-- BBC World Stories: Mexico's Missing Island


An interesting theory revolves around the map makers of the day. Their painstaking work was often copied, so to guard against this, little "phantom markers" were often added on the assumption the forger would copy these too. Could it be that the entire island of Berrmeja is one of these?