Podesta Island

Mar 31 2011

859830254Nearly a thousand miles offshore in this south-east corner of the Pacific lies Podesta island. Uniquely from other Chilean islands in this area it does not have a corresponding detailed chart, nor does the cruising or anchorage guide reference it. However, it lies on our path towards Easter Island and we should pass it tomorrow morning.

On our westbound route much closer to the Chilean coast we visited Robinson Crusoe Island, a small community of four-hundred surviving on fishing, the fortnightly supply boat and the memory of their most famous and original resident the castaway Alexander Selkirk. More recent history tells a different story, on the 27th February last year the devastating Chilean earthquake was felt by islanders, but they were not prepared for the wave. On that day eighteen souls were lost to the Tsunami along with much of their shore-side infrastructure and amenities. An idyllic island community shattered by the force of nature, today Tsunami warning signs and escape routes are posted along the shore as they are on the mainland shores.

In these days of limitless communication, infinite access, connectivity and the flow of information it is alien to us how an event can be a surprise, how people can be unaware, how nature can have the upper hand? And yet we are searching for a landmass in the Pacific that seems illusive, people around the Pacific rim and farther afield are on heightened alert for the catastrophic effects of unexpected Tsunamis’ and in these years of increased solar sunspot activity power grids are threatened.

We are keen for another landfall and a new discovery, but ever mindful of the thousands of wrecks that litter our shore globally from explorers seeking discoveries I am keen to reference a chart or some account of landfall. None seems available until ironically we find a Wikipedia entry.

Captain Pinocchio of the vessel Barone Podesta in 1879 claimed the island to exist, the island was charted falsely up until 1935 when following a 1932 unsuccessful search it was removed from charts (not ours). The island has not been found since.