As strange as it seems, Brazil was known long before the discovery of America –although this had little to do with the South American giant we know today. The island of Brazil, also known as “Hy-Brasail,” had been located in the northern regions of the Atlantic, not far from Ireland’s west coast. The thing is, Hy-Brasail never actually existed.

Even if it appears on various maps since the year 1325 –drawn on a portolan chart, the kind that brought the compass into use–, it is actually one among thousands of phantom islands that before being eliminated due to more precise and technologically advanced observations, for centuries even, were present in marine cartography.

In 1497, Spanish diplomat Pedro de Ayala reported that John Cabot, the first European to visit North America after the Vikings, had actually made his trip alongside a group of Bristolians who ended up founding Brazil. Ayala also mentions “Sete Cidades” in his letter, a mysterious cluster of seven island-cities in the Atlantic, supposedly founded in the 7th century by Christians who were fleeing the Muslim conquest of Iberia —proving that the immensity of oceans does breed ghost islands.

Sometimes, it is simply impossible to tell reality apart from fantasy ––Supposedly, Hy-Brasail remained hidden by fog except for one day every seven years. It was probably on one of those lucky days in 1674 when John Nisbet sailed onto the island shores and ordered four of his sailors to explore the land. The sailors spent only a day on this land, accompanied by an elder —maybe one of the Irish monks?— who allegedly gave them gold and silver.

Later, Captain Alexander Johnson led another expedition, which confirmed Nisbet’s findings. But shortly after that, Hy-Brasail Island once again faded into invisibility.

Hy-Brasail has often been drawn on maps east or southeast of Ireland, but it has also been drawn as part of the Azores islands in Portugal. Refuting the existence of Hy-Brasail proved to be an up-hill battle, so instead of completely omitting it from maps, it slowly shrunk until it became a rock.

The history of the Hy-Brasail Island, like that of many other phantom islands, is a strange combination of false legends, buccaneer observations and illusion. To this day, there is controversy over whether or not Brazil owes its name to this cartographic fabrication.

Phantom islands have commonly been the scene for all kinds of fictional stories ––fantasies that tend to be told with the help of a good storyteller, which is why the history of Hy-Brazil should be heard from the voice of an Irishman in countryside pub.

As strange as it seems, Brazil was known long before the discovery of America –although this had little to do with the South American giant we know today. The island of Brazil, also known as “Hy-Brasail,” had been located in the northern regions of the Atlantic, not far from Ireland’s west coast. The thing is, Hy-Brasail never actually existed.

Even if it appears on various maps since the year 1325 –drawn on a portolan chart, the kind that brought the compass into use–, it is actually one among thousands of phantom islands that before being eliminated due to more precise and technologically advanced observations, for centuries even, were present in marine cartography.

In 1497, Spanish diplomat Pedro de Ayala reported that John Cabot, the first European to visit North America after the Vikings, had actually made his trip alongside a group of Bristolians who ended up founding Brazil. Ayala also mentions “Sete Cidades” in his letter, a mysterious cluster of seven island-cities in the Atlantic, supposedly founded in the 7th century by Christians who were fleeing the Muslim conquest of Iberia —proving that the immensity of oceans does breed ghost islands.

Sometimes, it is simply impossible to tell reality apart from fantasy ––Supposedly, Hy-Brasail remained hidden by fog except for one day every seven years. It was probably on one of those lucky days in 1674 when John Nisbet sailed onto the island shores and ordered four of his sailors to explore the land. The sailors spent only a day on this land, accompanied by an elder —maybe one of the Irish monks?— who allegedly gave them gold and silver.

Later, Captain Alexander Johnson led another expedition, which confirmed Nisbet’s findings. But shortly after that, Hy-Brasail Island once again faded into invisibility.

Hy-Brasail has often been drawn on maps east or southeast of Ireland, but it has also been drawn as part of the Azores islands in Portugal. Refuting the existence of Hy-Brasail proved to be an up-hill battle, so instead of completely omitting it from maps, it slowly shrunk until it became a rock.

The history of the Hy-Brasail Island, like that of many other phantom islands, is a strange combination of false legends, buccaneer observations and illusion. To this day, there is controversy over whether or not Brazil owes its name to this cartographic fabrication.

Phantom islands have commonly been the scene for all kinds of fictional stories ––fantasies that tend to be told with the help of a good storyteller, which is why the history of Hy-Brazil should be heard from the voice of an Irishman in countryside pub.

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