In 1913 a small group of explorers from New York set sail towards Greenland. They were looking to solve what the head of the expedition, Donald MacMillan, called “the last great geographical problem of the North” – They were planning to explore Crocker Land.
Seven years earlier, in 1906, an American explorer called Robert Peary, en route to the North Pole, was standing on Cape Thomas Hubbard on the lookout for a previously unknown and unexplored piece of land. Peary had been led to believe this piece of land would be somewhere in this vicinity following information recieved from a tidal expert and, scanning the horizon, he saw it through his binoculars: “the snow-clad summits of the distant land in the northwest above the ice horizon.” He named it Crocker Land after “the late George Crocker,” who had helped finance the expedition.
Neither Peary nor MacMillan ever reached Crocker Island – this is because it didn’t actually exist!
Non-existent islands were a surprisingly common problem in the 19th century. Some of them may have once been actual islands, which later sunk beneath the waters. Some of them were genuine mistakes such as icebergs misidentified as islands, islands whose longitudes were miscalculated, illusions that really did look like they might be land. Though some were straight-up fabricated by sea captains looking to garner favor with potential funders.
The footage above from the Crocker Land expedition by Robert Edwin Peary (1913).