This machine plots the phantom Sandy Island

The New Velocity is an Arduino-based project that plots the phantom Sandy Island digitally. 

In 1876, the ship Velocity reported observing a series of sandy islands. As the practice of the day was to leave any potential navigational hazards on charts, these islands that are now officially “nonexistent” survived into the digital age and were not officially “undiscovered” until 2012. This seems like an interesting phenomenon in our age when it often seems that with satellites, and GPS information, we should at least know an accurate layout of the earth.


Luiz Zanotello of the University of the Arts Bremen created The New Velocity machine to explore this cartographic anomaly in the digital age. Black sand is poured onto a rotating platform, creating a miniature “island” on a table. A sensor is moved up and down in sinusoidal pattern, simulating the observation conditions of the original ship. This data on this false island is then recorded and put in a publicly-available dataset.


Per the project’s homepage, “Each set of datasets evidences the presence of an islet within the island’s range, and archives its survey readings on the islet’s coastline, water depth surroundings, topographical elevation and geotagged content.” Although the moral implications of digitally reviving a phantom island is an open question, as seen in the video below, the device is well-made and would look great as an art exhibit.


This project was brought to life using an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) to handle motion and sensor data, working alongside a Raspberry Pi 2 for visual and mapping control.

[h/t Creative Applications]

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