If you look at maps of the Americas ranging from the 16th to the 20th centuries many of them have an island within the Gulf of Mexico called Bermeja…but on modern maps, it’s not there.” SOURCE: Geography Geek

Don’t be fooled by the click-bait nature of the embedded video title (of course the CIA didn’t make the island disappear), because this obscure topic is a nice entry into several geographic topics.  In the Gulf of Mexico, the tiny island of Bermeja (Vermeia) was listed on maps from 1539 to 1922 as Mexican territory but simply on the strength of these old maps and 16th century maritime record.  As oil exploration in the Gulf intensified, and with the passage of UNCLOS, Mexico wanted to claim as large an Exclusive Economic Zone as possible and even searched for this apocryphal island, but to no avail.  This has led to two donut-hole gaps in the Gulf of Mexico between the US and Mexican EEZs, one that has be negotiated, and one that still remains to be determined.   The island, or lack there of is insignificant, but there are 3 good geographic topics this highlights:

  • Cartographic errors that get repeated over centuries.
  • UNCLOS and the Law of the Seas.
  • Off-shore natural resource management.