In Irish mythology, there is an island cloaked in the mist that only appears once every seven years. Called Hy Brasil, it is believed the name derives not from the South American country, but from a clan of prominent Irishmen called Breasail, though this is unconfirmed. Tales range from it being the home of an advanced technological civilization to the home of the Irish gods.
But is it a myth, or did it really exist? It appears on several maps in the middle ages, including one in 1325, a portolan chart (an early nautical map, these were noted for their accuracy) by a noted Italian-Catalonian cartographer, Angelino Dulcert. It appeared on many maps as a circular island with a straight running through the center southwest of Galway Bay until the Victorian era.
Expeditions were mounted in 1480 and 1481 to find the island, but the only record we have of any potential success is a mention in 1497 by a Spanish diplomat that another area discovered by John Cabot had been “discovered in the past by the men from Bristol who found Brasil.”
Captain John Nisbet believed he found the island in 1674 and told a story of it being the home of a magician in a stone castle surrounded by large black rabbits, but that tale relates closely to a story by author Richard Head. Despite this fantastical story, the following expedition led by Captain Alexandar Johnson claimed to have found the island as well, and there are several other documented trips.
In the end, though, is it possible that the island of Hy Brasil, though fantastical in tale (it even makes an appearance in the Rendelsham Forest UFO incident), has a mundane explanation? It may be the Atlantis of the north, but our modern inability to verify it’s authenticity may be simply a case of climate change. Tales of Hy Brasil date from the end of the last ice age, when ocean levels were considerably lower than they are today. One map places Hy Brasil squarely where a modern shoal, Porcupine Bank, was “discovered” in 1862 two hundred miles off the coast of Ireland. Could Brasil simply be mostly underwater in our modern day?