Brazil, Island Of
name atlantic islands
BRAZIL, ISLAND OF, and other imaginary islands in the Atlantic. For a long time before the discovery of America, the fancies of navigators or of cosmographers had scattered over the Atlantic a number of islands, either wholly imaginary, or so detached from the germ of truth which had suggested their existence as to represent no fact in nature. Several such islands are described in the Arabic geography of Edrisi (1153-54 A.D.), and if, passing over more than four hundred years, we take up an atlas of -Miister or Mercator we shall find that the northern Atlantic, instead of presenting a vast blank as in our most recent charts, is almost as full of islands and shoals as the heaven is of stars. To our present category belongs the island of St Brandon, the supposed discovery of an Irish eremite of the 6th century, of whose voyage many wonders are related. Such also were Antilia and the Island of the Seven Cities, connected with another legend of uncertain date, which described this as the refuge of a body of Christians, who, in flight from the Saracen conquerors of the Peninsula, had, under the guidance of their seven bishops, committed themselves to the wide ocean ; such were 21/ayda or itsinaide, the Isla Verde, or Green Isle (which the natives of the Hebrides still think they see beneath the western sun), but none more famous and recurrent than the Isle of Brazil. The name of this island connects itself with the red dye-woods known by thst name in the Middle Ages, a name that possibly also may have been applied to other vegetable dyes, and so may descend from the I'mlce Puipurarice of Pliny. Its first appearance on a map appears to be (I. de Brazi) in the Venetian portulauo of Andrea di Bianco (1436), where it is found attached to one of the larger islands of the Azores. When this group became better known and was colonized, the island in question got the name of Terceira. And the conservative spirit of map-makers then sought a new position for that Island of Brazil which they found in the charts of their predecessors, and this island grew in (imaginary) importance and size. In time, better knowledge of the Atlantic showed that these must be exaggerated, but belief in the island's existence endured.
The conservative spirit just referred to has indeed preserved in some shape most of the names mentioned above. The name of the Seven Cities survives as applied to a volcanic district of the Island of St Michael's (Azores). Antilia and St Brandon's Isle were conspicuous on the maps which were probably in the hands of Columbus on his first western voyage. The latter name has disappeared indeed, but the former survives in a plural form, as applied to the West Indies (Antilles). So also it is probable that the familiar existence of " Brazil " as a geographical name led to its bestowal upon the vast continental region of South America, which was found to supply dye-woods kindred to those which the name properly denoted. The older memory, however, survived also, and the Island of Brazil retained its place in mid-ocean, some hundred miles to the west of Ireland, both in the traditions of the forecastle and in charts. In Purday's General Chart of the Atlantic, " corrected to 1830," we find the Mayda indeed noted as " very doubtful," but "Isle Verte or Green Rock" (44' 48' N. lat., and 26'10' W. long.) with the remark, "Existence lately confirmed ; " and " Brazil Rock (high)," with no indication of doubt, in 51° 10' N. lat., 15' 50' W. long. In a chart of currents by the late Mr Findlay, dated 1853, these names appear again. But in his 12th edition of Purday's Memoir Descriptive and Explanatory of the H. Atlantic Ocean (1865), the existence of these islands is briefly discussed and rejected by Mr Findlay, with the intimation that their names would be entirely omitted in future editions.
- Thus the official sepulture of the old tradition of the island of Brazil took place only eleven years before the date of this article (1876). And now the surface of the Atlantic, as represented in the latest Admiralty charts, shows between St Kilda and Bermuda, between Newfoundland and the Azores, but one point rising above the water, viz., the sugar loaf of Rockall, in 57' 35' 52" N. lat., 13' 42' 21" W. long. (Fl. Y.)