Oh, Borges would have blushed. This just in: While mapping the planet via satellite and special camera trucks, all-knowing Google finds an island in the Coral Sea—not large, but large enough—15 miles long and three wide, somewhere midway between Australia and New Caledonia. Explorers (okay, “academics”) take sail, but find no island there. They are “really puzzled,” they say. Their charts show no island either, only deep, deep waters—not land but its opposite, 4,620 feet of empty (“empty”) sea. “It’s quite bizarre.” Just a mistake, the explorers shrug, a smudge on the satellite’s radar, a Google burp. So they sail home and tell their tale. Word gets around. Unsatisfied, a librarian in Auckland—for kicks, let’s call him Tlön—shakes the dust off some old maps and, on a 1908 British Admiralty chart based on the 1876 voyage of the whaler Velocity, finds the island, right where it’s supposed to be. Sandy Island, it’s called, not all whalers being as gifted with names as St. Melville. Someone else (we’ll call her Uqbar) soon locates the island in a Times Atlas of 1897. “It's great to see it has been there for so long," says Tlön, and concludes that perhaps the whalers, in their velocitous haste, misrecorded its location (but then how could Google find it there?). Or perhaps, Tlön says—and you can see him smiling—it's just “a mystery of the sea.” Others suggest, at least semi-preposterously, that when the whalers saw it, the island was perhaps a sandbar that has since been washed away. And perhaps they’re almost right. So many things disappear—why not islands? But again: how did Google spot it then? I can’t help but wonder: If Tlön had consulted his charts, and Uqbar her atlas, prior to its appearance on Google's maps, would they have found that sandy island in the Coral Sea? Isn’t it equally possible, more likely even, that the seas did not shift and the island neither appeared nor disappeared, that it was only the maps that changed, our maps, and that once it appeared on one, it began, retrospectively, to appear on all? Isn't that the way things work?