I am planning a short trip to Lanzarote and looking to take the car on the ferry. It would seem that Armas have two drop off points either Arrecife and La Graciosa. After a bit of research I found that La Garciosa is a small island off the north coast of Lanzarote. Someone referred to it as the eighth Canary island, but I knew that wasn’t correct.
This was enough though to start the old grey matter churning. Like most people, I know there are seven Canary Islands, plus the legendary island called San Borondón (sometimes called Whale Island) so knowing how the readers of this blog like a bit of mystery and intrigue, I thought I would see what it was all about.
Different accounts are told of San Borondón which mysteriously appears and disappears to the west of El Hierro and La Gomera but the base of all the tales remain basically the same. So taking a bit from here and a bit from there I pieced together the story which goes something along the lines of the following.
Sometime between 501 to 600AD an Irish monk, Brendan from Tralee, sailed across the Atlantic in a small ship with 14 other missionaries. They were looking for the ‘Promised Land’, an island of happiness and wealth, a Garden of Eden. Hey haven´t we been here before with The Garden of Hesperides .
Along the way their boat was attacked by fire-hurling demons, floating crystal columns and eventually after 40 days the monks reached what appeared to be a lush island with clean black sand but no signs of human life. Some tales say they lived on the island for seven years, others just that they landed on the island. Whichever you believe, they were suddenly taken by surprise while celebrating mass. The island started to move and the monks immediately set sail. Once away from the imminent danger, the monks watched in amazement as the island moved in the water much like a gigantic whale, appearing and disappeared beneath the waves.
In due course, we find Brendan back in Ireland where we also learn of a poem that tells the tale of a monk who sailed the oceans and an island that when approached vanishes. Somewhere lost in the midst of time a connection was made that this monk was Saint Brendan and the mysterious island was San Borondón.
All this would be a nice legend except many think there is more to it. When the Canaries were conquered in the 15th century, the Spanish were told stories by the native Guanches, about an eighth island. An island to the west of El Hierro that came and went! Around the time of Christopher Columbus the island appeared on numerous maps and the authorities were so convinced it was true that expeditions sailed from Santa Cruz to try and find it, the last one as late as 1721. Many sailors said they had seen it but as they tried to reach it, a thick mist came in and when it cleared, they found nothing.
Even today, the tale persists with many saying they have seen the fabled island between the sea and the clouds, others claim it is simply a mirage. However while I was researching the story I came across not only the map above which is dated 1707 and shows the possible location but also a picture of this Google map of the Canary Islands. Someone has circled in red what looks like a small landmass. If you compare it to the previous map it coincides with the location of San Borondón.
So perhaps it is not a myth after all which is why many islanders can be found sitting on the shore, gazing out to sea, hoping to catch a glimpse of the phantom island