Floating Islands

There are lots of Floating Islands in fiction, if not in real life. There’s a floating coral island in one of Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge stories. And there’s the sort-of island with the trapped Spanish Galleon on it in the 1960s movie The Lost Continent )Not to be confused with the cooler dinosaur-infested Cesar Romero movie attacked on MST3K of the same name)


Growing up in the west of Scotland, a familiar piece of folklore that was handed down concerned the “three wonders” of Loch Lomond: waves without wind, fish without fins and a floating island. Though nobody ever knew what these specifically referred to.

The tradition is reasonably old. Herman Moll’s 1725 map of “Lenox” phrases it “Famous for its Floting Island its Fish without Fins and being frequently Tempestuous in a Calm”. The storms and the finless fish are mentioned in a Latin inscription on the 1573 Ortelius map of Scotland, but without the floating island.
Various explanations have been offered for all three, but those for the floating island have not been overwhelmingly convincing.

There’s also the legendary Green Island of the West:

More tales here.

San Francisco’s entry in the “floating island” race is Forbes Island, which has a 40-ft lighthouse (with white picket fence), palm trees, and underwater dining room, all run by the eccentric Nemo-esque Forbes Kiddoo. It’s currently operated as a restaurant out on the Bay, accessible by shuttle-boat (which is summoned via “Forbes phone” from the private dock at Pier 41 where the Island is also moored when not in use). This review from KQED’s Check,Please! Bay Area includes video footage in streamable and downloadable formats. The “island” is boat-based, but still impressive: “120 tons of rock, 100 tons of sand for the beach, 40 tons of topsoil and trees…”

Floating islands and “fixed land” play a central part in C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra.

Damn, I rushed to this forum to mention this. Perelandra is probably my favorite C.S. Lewis fiction, even above any of the individual Narnia books.

It’s a stand out from the trilogy too.
I had it in my mind that, in legend, the Holy Grail was to be found on a floating island. Finding no Google hits though, I musta dreamed it. I’m such a kaniggit!

This man, Reishee Sowa (www.playamayanews.com), originally from England, has built his own island from soda pop bottles - two hundred fifty thousand pop bottles to be exact. It took him 6.5 years to construct after practising on smaller versions in a Mexican lake, and he lives on it with 8 cats and one dog. It was floating off the coast of Mexico when the article in my link was written (2004). Though he prefers not to call it an island: “technically I don’t have an island, I have an eco space creating ship – I can move after all.” His dream? “Wave powered flippers and sails and a journey through the Panama Canal”. He will accept donations if you want to help make his island more of a paradise.

P.S. At Wikipedia I found mention of a website, which seems to be the “official” website of Spiral Island:

Nice to see a reference to the HMS Habbakuk in there, as it gives me a chance to post a rather cruel, but funny, quote from Zack Parsons’s book My Tank is Fight! Deranged Inventions of WWII:

Although Cecil does say in his column that the ice would melt slowly, Parsons argues that the boat would be slower than a regular boat. I guess we’ll never know, but I can’t imagine a huge hunk of ice going that fast.

Pyke’s speed estimate in his original long memo to Mountbatten about Habbakuk was seven knots for the carrier version. However, it was part of his conception that although pykrete would melt, it would do so sufficiently slowly that, for all practical purposes, this could be staved off by including a freezing plant on the ship. (Somewhat like the Project Orion nuclear spaceship, the scheme was being conceived on such a scale that even an otherwise vast freezing plant becomes a minor encumbrance on board.) The more obvious objection to the low speed that Pyke was keen to stress wasn’t actually a problem was that this would make any pykrete ship a sitting duck for enemy planes - his counterargument being that the ship was so vast as to be invulnerable. He even suggested installing huge neon signs declaring “Bomb Me - I’m a Dummy!” to taunt enemy pilots.
There was a flipside to the scale. As the likes of J.D. Bernel pointed out, the engine required to propel such a beast might involve quantities of steel comparable to an entire conventional carrier, so it wasn’t as if one was necessarily saving such resources.

The most detailed secondary account of the scheme that I’m aware of is in Pyke: The Unknown Genius (Evans, 1959) by David Lampe.

Oh my God, that’s an awesome quote.

Floating Sargassum weed masses are sometimes called floating islands because they can be miles wide and long. They originate from the Sargasso Sea and can float around the world on ocean currents. It’s considered a habitat for sea creatures because it provides food and protection. I first heard about them from an old Jonny Quest episode. I now see them often on my beach walks during the fall when the currents bring the seaweed onto the beach.