Wednesday, January 3, 2018

SearchResearch Challenge (Jan 3, 2018): The Case of the Missing Island

For me, one of the joys of travel... 

... is learning something unexpected, something I didn't expect, something that makes me wonder at the world, and how/why things are the way they are. 

Not long ago, I was in Fiji, diving in the Somosomo Strait, a channel that flows between the island of Taveuni and Vanu Levu.  In the map below, I've marked Taveuni Island and the strait.  

Taveuni Island, the Somosomo Strait, and Vanua Levu, the big island to the west.

Taveuni is a lovely South Pacific tropical island with remarkable diving, waterfalls, lush vegetation, and a plethora of reefs and little islands to visit.  Here's a bit of a larger view, just to give you an idea of where this is: 

That blue dot is where Taveuni sits, midway between the Solomon Islands and the Cook Islands.  It's 1865 miles (3001 km) to the closest point of Australia, and a 13 hour flight from Los Angeles.  It also happens to be right on the International Date Line, so you can walk from today to tomorrow in just a step or two.  

We'll doubtlessly have future Challenges about the fish and corals, but this week I have a different Challenge for you.  

While I was staying at the Nakia Lodge, I took a lot of photos, including this one: 

And this one: 

In both of these images, you'll see a small island rising up out of the sea.  (It's obvious in the first photo, a little more hidden in the second, but it's the same island.)  

This is what that island looks like up close as you paddle in on a kayak: 

It's your dream island:  It's small (maybe 1 acre in size), with a little sandy beach, nice snorkeling, lush trees, easy to get to from the island, etc.  

In the second photo (with the palm trees), I'm standing at the edge of the Lodge, at -16.741502,-179.950285 -- the photo angle of the first shot is about like this: 

The angle of photo #2 (above). 

Now, of course, I'm curious... and you know where that leads... 

I'm asking, because when I zoom in on the map, this is what I see: 

And it doesn't matter if I zoom in with the satellite view... there's nothing there!  

And yet I know, from personal experience, that this small island is basically due west of Somosomo.  

So.. I was able to figure it out.  Can you? 

1.  What is the name of that mysterious, seemingly missing-in-action island? It's big enough to be on the map, and definitely big enough to show up in the satellite photos... so... what is it? 

As always, we want more than just the answer--we also want to know WHAT you did to find the answer!  

I'll reveal my method next week.  

In the meantime... Happy New Year!  

Search on. 



  1. Happy New Year, Dr. Russell!

    [missing island nakia lodge]

    Missing Pacific island riddle 'solved' Not or island but intersting. Btw, Went to Google Maps and checked [-16.741502,-179.950285] on Satellite view, the whitest part is just for the sand?

    Then searched by image your Mystery Island: Mentions, Grand Island Resort and The beach on Korolevu. Searched the first. Beautiful place but not what we looking for.

    [The beach on Korolevu]

    Garden Island Resort on Instagram after thinking how to find. First thought using # like taveuni, Nakia Lodge

    Just one island mentioned and checks with previous search by image.

    [koro levu island]

    Koro Levu Island, the jewel of Somosomo Strait Size: 8 acres so not the one we looking for. Maybe is a part of this island.

    [korolevu island 1 acre] I know it is a bad query because of bias.

    Korolevu Island is a small islet located about 1/3 of the way down the west coast of Taveuni His video is very good showing the ocean life

    Also learned Cast Away was filmed on Monuriki, one of the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji

    1. [korolevu | "koro levu" island] advanced search to search on Fiji

      Island of Koro Levu, Fiji Islands

      Also known as Corolib, Goat Islet, Korolib It is located at an elevation of 20 meters above sea level.

      [islets on google maps]

      link text

    2. ["korolevu" somosomo fiji island] in books

      Another map

      With ["korolevu island" somosomo fiji] in books last book; Vanua Levu and Taveuni Regional Tourism Strategy, says: "Korolevu Island, located offshore of Chiefly Somosomo, another artificial island which was fortified. Korolevu has magnificent plate and hard corals and is a popular place for all visitors to Tavuni to snorkel..." I searched for the whole document to verify if this is really artificial island or what they meant with that. Not luck at the moment.

    3. I just watched this video about the possible "Magic Bridge." That is in the ocean and was studied after satellite images. They are curious as our Dr. Russell. The full show is today for those who live in The United States.

    4. Glad you caught that bias when I said "about 1 acre" -- that was definitely an underestimate. Excellent work.

  2. I approached this challenge from a previous map challenge where Google had blurred out a building (was it The Hague?)

    Launched Apple Maps (first time) and pasted in the coordinates you provided. Nope.

    Tried Bing (as in the other challenge). No go.

    I decided to go old school and searched Google for [ island west of somosomo ]. On the SERP (search engine results page) was a wikipedia page for List of Islands for Fiji.

    Did a Find in page search for Somosomo and located the island group.

    Image Searched [ taveuni island map ]


  3. went back to check the file names as Ramón taught us… produced some other views of Koro Levu ——
    there was 'levu' in this
    Dan, just cash out those stock options & maybe partner up with some dive buddies… it's only money for paradi$e… that would be a HNY!
    USD 2,500,000.00
    ⬆from this search - 'levu' SERP about ¾ down the page
    check bottom of page

    1. We talked about it... But there's no water on the island, and no provision for sewage. A fair bit of work would have to be done. Unless you're a contractor, that's a lot of upfront effort!

    2. …but you would be joining the ranks of
      • Paul Allen: Allan Island. (sold, now owned by Eric C. Anderson) (named for a U.S. war hero, by the way, not for the Microsoft co-founder)
      • Richard Branson: Necker Island. Valued At: $100 million.
      • Larry Ellison: Lanai, Hawaii. Lanai is Hawaii's sixth largest island, sitting nine miles off the coast of Maui.
      • Marlon Brando: Teti'aroa is an atoll in the Windward group of the Society Islands of French Polynesia. Once the vacation spot for Tahitian royalty, the atoll is widely known for having been owned by Brando.
      …wait, maybe that's making the case for not buying an atoll, islet, barrier reef, cay, island, etc..
      dang, North Dumpling Island, N.Y. is taken…
      maybe it's like a yacht - better to be friends with the owner…

  4. I tried several approaches until I found the island's name: Koro Levu (or Korolevu). A Google search for that name gives plenty of information.

    My first idea was to use the amazing Ulrich Deuschle's "Generate a Panorama" webtool. The panorama generated here shows the islet's silhouette, together with Vanua Levu's, exactly like Dan Russell's photo; but it doesn't show the islet's name.

    Next, I thought of using the GeoHack on Wikimedia Toolforge. Here's the result. There, I realized that OpenStreetMap shows an islet there, and so does HERE/Bing (but no name on them). The best satellite photo I found is on TerraServer (here).

    In order to find the islet's name, though, I had to use Google Earth. With the Photos layer on, it shows a nice but small aerial photo on Panoramio (credited to the apparently extinct, whose title is "Island of Koro Levu, Fiji Islands." This and other photos of the islet can also be found on the website "Private Islands" (, here.

    I didn't go deeper than this, so I couldn't find out why the island is not shown on Google Maps nor on their satellite images.

    1. Damn, I keep repeating the same mistake again and again: using "html" instead of "href" on the "a" html tag… Sorry, I had every "here" word (and many others) properly linked.

    2. This is a GREAT find! How did you find this? Can you remember your process?

    3. LMV - did you use this with the Farallon Islands too?
      not Fiji…
      somewhere near Dan

    4. Thanks. :)

      I'm not sure what else I can say about the process. The only step I left out was my finding out the island's coordinates, which I did on GMaps but could have done directly on Google Earth, with the information I got from the panorama generated by Deuschle's webtool (this panorama, or its telescoped form): in fact, if you hover your mouse over the island's silhouette, a label will tell you not only the height of that peak but also its distance from the viewer. That's how I knew the island is 6.0 to 6.3 km away from Nakia Resort & Dive, closest distance on its South end. The challenge disclosed the viewer's coordinates and the view direction (approximately WSW, not accepted as such by the webtool but easily converted into 237.5°). With that information, I checked Google Earth. The photo on Google Earth showing Koro Levu Island is indeed ~6km WSW of Nakia Resort.

      I then did a search by image (both on Google and TinEye), and that's how I found the "Private Islands" website to be the best source I could find for that image. (In order to find a "best source" for any image, I usually combine a Google Search by Image, adjusting the description if needed, with a TinEye search, looking for the "biggest" and/or the "oldest" image).

    5. remmij, I haven't tried to answer the Farallon Islands challenge.

      I had mentioned this webtool before though, on a comment to the challenge to build a widget for the island viewing problem. I was very happy when I found this amazing tool. I really love it.

    6. nice detective work LMV.
      it is a powerful tool… do you speak German? how did you initially find "make panoramas"?
      thanks for the memory correction/untanglement… had the vague recollection of the tool and your discovery/association with it…
      but had not used it since you had brought it to light… awareness vs. knowledgeable, appropriate application — a constant struggle.
      remmij April 29, 2017 at 3:39 PM neat tool find, LMV nameless panorama field of view:
      Corona de los Farallones [Telescope]
      funny how memory plays a role in enabling and/or hindering search… need a search engine (AI) that will find future memories*… ;-]
      the association with the Farallons
      Philip K. Dick
      "The film's central theme is the question of free will versus determinism. It examines whether free will can exist if the future is set and known in advance. Other themes include the role of preventive government in protecting its citizenry, the role of media in a future state where technological advancements make its presence nearly boundless, the potential legality of an infallible prosecutor, and Spielberg's repeated theme of broken families."
      a couple of bits that may be of interest…
      Luis M. Rocha at Indiana University and Joana Gonçalves-Sá of the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência in Portugal
      "Portugal has definitely entered Google's radar. "

    7. @remmij, Mountain Panoramas is absolutely mesmerizing, thanks for sharing! One of these days I will spend several hours there, travelling virtually all the way from Nice to Vienna, jumping from one Alps peak to the next.

  5. [small island west of somosomo] finds many images. I am thinking this is a privately owned island which owners have requested to have removed from GE and Maps.

    There is such an island not far from my place with is strangle always clouded over by GE

    Back to your island shows it is Laucala Island which on further invetigation turns out to a privately owned island resort. And on is it clearly seen and so labelled.

    Looking further I check Mapcarta: Hah. Everything labelled now I think your mysterious island is Nalawanindrano Islands

    Geocode for Nalawanindrano Islands, Fiji: Latitude: -16.816667 / Longitude: 179.95 Yours is the Lodge, at -16.741502,-179.950285 shows your island. I think think.

    Edge came up with a nice map too.

    THe Fiji Compendium make for interesting reading should you be in the area on a small yacht

    Cheers. lovely to see this sunny place on a day here with thick fog, jon tU

  6. First I committed apostasy and looked at Bing Maps - that seemed to show something.

    I then thought "why would an island disappear" and so thought about volcanic islands and reefs - thinking that perhaps it wasn't on older maps but could be recent. (Not happy because of vegetation). This led to wild-goose-chases looking at reefs and bommies and dive centres but none fitted. However some of the maps of diving centres DID include the island and one gave the name "Koru Levu".

    I then searched for Koru Levu and found another red-herring - Koru Levu village. Putting in Island gave me a link to "private islands for sale" and this showed Koru Levu with the maps without any island visible. More searches gave,4036149 which described the island.

    I was curious why it didn't appear on maps and thought it could be because it was a private island. Looking on for small islands there were several that were also missed off - mostly smaller but a few bigger.

    1. Actually, your apostasy was the first thing I did as well! Kudos to you for not getting mixed up with the various names of the place.

  7. a short write up of the kayak experience…
    Kayak & Snorkel Korolevu
    and a diversion from the island hunt task - micro-productivity - may apply to search methods…
    Snippets from the Revolution, Dr. Jaime Teevan

    1. Hi Remmij, how you found Kayak experience link? I have been searching and found only few links about Korelevu. is like Dr. Russell says, like there is no island. Thanks!

    2. Korolevu may be a state of mind as much as an islet…
      3rd row down, far left - 1st image, links to blog
      what Dan may have seen below the surface…
      before he flew back for this… not in the range of what Mexico City experienced.
      how Dan "corrects" bad searchers… has his name on the tool…
      also in the south Pacific (NZ)

    3. The kayak and snorkel story is great. Thanks for sharing!

    4. I happened to be awake for the earthquake. It sounded like cats running around on the roof. The house moved a bit. I rolled over and went back to sleep. (I've lived through too many earthquakes to get excited about a 4.4)

  8. Spent more time going over this comparing my answer with the others. In the process this morning I found this useful source:

    List of places in Northern, Fiji at

    I am still hedging toward my answer Cheers jon adds your island don;t show uo due to low resolution over the water

  9. Found another tool How To Get GPS Coordinates of a Location?

    Also points out an app too


    1. I always just click at the location on Google Maps, then read off the lat/long in the URL!

  10. I just Google image searched for 'taveuni island map' and Korolevu Island is shown on the first hit. I confirmed whether it would be seen from the location you were at and Google image searched "Korolevu island" to confirm that it matches visually.

  11. Deb and Anne here. We started our search almost exactly like Fred - searched Google for [ island west of somosomo ]. On the SERP (search engine results page) was a wikipedia page for List of Islands for Fiji. We also did a control F search for somosomo and found it was island of Taveuni. But then we continued searching. Our next search was [ island west of Taveuni in somosomo strait ]. On the SERP the 4th result was an article about Korolevu. From the description it sounded like it was the right island. Looked at results and saw several others came up with this too. Checked Fred's map link and it also said Korolevu.

  12. This weekend I went to Fiji Island one of the best places I’ve ever gone. I was amazed by the beauty of the the Islands. honesty this Island is a paradise. Next year I’m planning again for <a href="> Fiji vacations</a> .

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