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Null Island: The Land of Lousy Directional Data ( 91

An anonymous reader writes: Null Island is one of the world's most visited places for directional data that doesn't exist in real life. The Wall Street Journal reports (Warning: source may be paywalled): "In the world of geographic information systems, the island is an apparition that serves a practical purpose. It lies at 'zero-zero,' a mapper's shorthand for zero degrees latitude and zero degrees longitude. By a programming quirk introduced by developers, those are the default coordinates where Google maps and other digital Global Positioning System applications are directed to send the millions of users who make mistakes in their searches. [About seven years ago, Mr. Kelso, who had heard the phrase used by other cartographers, encoded Null Island as the default destination for mistakes into a widely used public-domain digital-mapping data set called Natural Earth, which has been downloaded several million times. On a whim, he made the location at zero-zero appear as a tiny outcrop one-meter square. In no time at all, other mappers gave the 'island' its own natural geography, created a website, and designed T-shirts and a national flag.]" If you're feeling cognitively lazy, you can watch the short animated YouTube video explaining Null Island.
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Null Island: The Land of Lousy Directional Data

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  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Friday July 15, 2016 @09:07AM (#52517173)

    I don't want to start a war here, but I heard it has a lot of oil.

    • by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Friday July 15, 2016 @09:17AM (#52517213)
      Null Island? That's exceptional or at least it should throw one!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Snake oil?

    • China will be there soon to make the island a reality and claim it as it's sovereign territory.

      • Too late. North Korea has already claimed it for the Supreme Leader. They keep their ICBMs, flying cars, and mutant superheroes there.
    • by Pascoea ( 968200 )

      but I heard it has a lot of oil.

      Sounds like they need some Freedom(TM)

      • but I heard it has a lot of oil.

        Sounds like they need some Freedom(TM)

        Are you sure it doesn't need Freedom-â(TM)?

        (To me, that sounds like a free ATM, and that's very uncapitalist!)

    • And nobody should say anything about them not showing up on any export statistics. HELLO! They don't IMPORT a single drop of oil, and as everyone knows today, nobody, but NOBODY can live without oil. So if they don't import any oil, what does that tell us, huh?

      That can ONLY mean that they have oil and the only reason they don't show up on export statistics is that they deal the black gold on the black market, and there is only one group of people who have to resort to this. We can see it happen in the middl

    • A common misconception. It has one large geological formation that may appear similar to a massive oil deposit but there is no oil inside, it's simply an apparently bottomless cavern. The locals (who call it "dhev-noll") have been dumping their refuse in the hole for years and even their sewage system drains into it, yet it shows no signs of filling. The old joke is that it's "always hungry." It might me more interesting for use as a nuclear waste disposal site.

    • there is no null island.
      The imperialist dog CIA got rid of that soon after they destroyed Bermeja island.
    • Sounds like "Zero-Zero Island" - the secret hideout of a cartoon character from the early 1950s or so on the Captain Kangaroo children's show.

      I think it was Tom Teriffic...

  • by mandark1967 ( 630856 ) on Friday July 15, 2016 @09:09AM (#52517181) Homepage Journal

    where all the duped stories on /. wind up?

    • by Megane ( 129182 )
      Actually they all wind up on the front page. I think you mean where we wish they would go.
  • YOUTUBE LINK BROKEN (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 15, 2016 @09:11AM (#52517189)

    The YouTube link is sorta broken: it links to the video credits, not the beginning of the video. Correct link is

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 15, 2016 @09:16AM (#52517203)

    For some reason "Null Island" in Google Maps takes you to the Library of Congress...

  • Try it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kwelch007 ( 197081 ) on Friday July 15, 2016 @09:21AM (#52517227) Homepage

    Just tried it on Google Maps. If you enter "0, 0" it takes you to the North Pole. There are a couple of Comex drilling rigs there and a bunch of water. If you type "Null Island" into the search, it takes you to the Library of Congress. I find that humorous.

  • I'm not sure, but the image at [] looks a lot like Aogashima Island in Japan.

  • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Friday July 15, 2016 @10:47AM (#52517757) Homepage
    In some old (probably in the 7.x era) versions of Mac OS, there was a map control panel (I think it was for setting your time zone), that would let you look up locations by name. The zero-zero coordinates had a name of "Middle of Nowhere".
  • No mention of Optional Island? (Swift programmer joke)

  • Those of us of a certain age may better know 0 degrees Latitude/0 degrees Longitude as the location of Zero Zero Island, the home of Colonel Bleep (

  • A long time ago I was working with GPS applications and their internal representation of longitude meant our Null Island was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 0 north, 180 west.

    We figured out the conventions of the mapping application we were using (no Google Maps yet, and the documentation was vague) by trial and error. Our first attempts to plot GPS fixes from a drive along a local freeway showed a blank area with no freeway, nor much of anything else. We found that we were drawing a map centred on 4

  • This is just another example of stupid sloppy programming by developers who have no clue about how the real world works or have any regard for human safety. Fortunately developers are not true Engineers and so do not get sued when they kill people.

  • desk accessory, this was labeled "Middle of Nowhere".
  • Ferrying a survey vessel from Nova Scotia to Gabon, we noticed we would be within a couple of kilometers of 0,0 so diverted slightly to pass over it.

    It's very overrated,and there's no beer.

  • Using APRSISCE program (RF only) occasionally I zoom out to see what stations are there as result of lat/long settings of 000/000 (either too lazy to check configuration or testing hardware). I find a few there. One time I saw a friend's truck in North Atlantic, "hey Norm, how did you get there in just two days?" Obviously some screwed up bits from the laptop.

    Today I heard someone said, "APRS: The original Pokemon Go."

  • In no time at all, other mappers gave the 'island' its own natural geography, created a website, and designed T-shirts and a national flag

    China is now claiming null island as "historic Chinese territory".

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson