And They Named It Dodgy Island

Greenland is ice, Iceland is nice—and Carcass Island is full of penguins. In this installment, let’s investigate some of the more suspicious-sounding islands out there and see whether they live up to their altogether uninviting toponyms.

Name: Deception Island
Location: The South Shetland Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula
Does it live up to its name? Yes. Deception Island is a nearly perfect circle with a small inlet leading to a geothermal bay—a researcher from SUNY-Geneseo describes it as “a donut with a small bite taken out.” The entrance is almost completely obscured; you can only find your way in if you know precisely where to go. Also, once you get inside the bay… there’s an active underwater volcano.

Name: No-Name Island
Location: Ten acres of alluvial land in the Allegheny River, Pennsylvania
Does it live up to its name? No. I mean, No-Name is still a name, right? Congress seemed to think so; the island was formally established (along with six others) as part of the Allegheny River Islands Wilderness area in 1984.

Name: Carcass Island
Location: The Falkland Islands
Does it live up to its name? No. Carcass Island was named after the ominous-sounding HMS Carcass, which surveyed the area in the 1760s. No notable carcasses are to be found there, especially after fences were put up prevent the local gentoo penguins from attacking the sheep.

Name: Mafia Island
Location: Off the coast of Tanzania
Does it live up to its name? Nope. The name probably comes from the Arabic word “morfiyeh” meaning “archipelago.” Mafia Island is home to a marine wildlife center, rare birds and maybe a pygmy hippo or two—but no members of the Cosa Nostra. Sorry, Tony.

Name: Barren Island
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Does it live up to its name? No. But have you ever wondered how nearby Dead Horse Bay got its name? The area was once home to a plant that processed horses into glue. Barren Island doesn’t even live up to the “island” part of its name; it was connected to the rest of Brooklyn through reclaimed land in 1926.

Name: Inaccessible Island
Location: There are a few of them, actually, the largest is part of Tristan da Cunha archipelago.
Does it live up to its name? No. Try a boat? Seriously, you can take a cruise there.

Name: Bear Island
Location: Upper Norway, part of the Svalbard archipelago
Does it live up to its name? Yes! Though they’re not in year-round residence, the island positively crawls with polar bears in winter.

Name: Quarantine Island
Location: The largest island in Otago Harbour, near Dunedin, New Zealand
Does it live up to its name? Yes. Though Quarantine Island is now a public reserve, from 1863 until 1924 all incoming sailors with infectious diseases were kept on the island until they recovered or died.

Name: Funk Island
Location: Just off the northeastern coast of Newfoundland, Canada
Does it live up to its name? Yes. By all accounts, the island smells TERRIBLE, because it’s covered in bird shit. The island houses millions of birds (but not a single member of Parliament).

Name: Obstruction Island
Location: The San Juan Islands, Washington
Does it live up to its name? Sort of. An American explorer christened it Obstruction Island because he felt the island mucked up what could have been a clear passage for large ships between Blakely and Orcas islands. Larger ships instead take a marginally longer route around the southern end of Blakely Island.

Name: Hydra
Location: The Aegean Sea, Greece
Does it live up to its name? No. Hercules’ Hydra lived in the swamps of Lake Lerna, surrounded by entirely mythological beasts, and the name is a time-worn bastardization of “hydrea,” meaning “water.” In addition, the Aegean is saltwater, so microscopic freshwater hydra (gross!) aren’t likely, either.



Victoria Johnson is a cartographer and this is her Tumblr.

From top, photos by: Piet Barber, Stan Shebs and Bjørn Christian Tørrissen.