Phantom Islands – Hy-Brasil

Phantom Islands - Hy-Brasil

This article will be covering the common Celtic maritime tradition of phantom islands – outcrops of land that have appeared on historical maps, only to disappear from maps later.

One such island is thought to be nestling somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland – Hy-Brasil.


The island has picked up many different names throughout traditional maritime history…

  • Hy-Brasil
  • O’Breasail
  • Hi-Brasil
  • O’Brazil
  • Hy Breasail
  • Hy Breasal
  • Brazil Rock
  • Brazir
  • Insula Fortunatae
  • Mag Mell
  • Hy na-Beatha
  • Tir na-m-Buadha

It was first documented in a map created by Genoese cartographer Angellino de Dalorto, back in 1325. He had placed it southwest of Ireland.

Angellino de Dalorto also claims to have set foot on the land, describing the island as being a near enough perfect circle of land, with a single river running straight down the middle of it.

Reports suggest that the Celtic inhabitants of Ireland were already fully aware of this mysterious island’s existence – the mythical island was considered part of their folklore.

The Civilization

The Celts believed that the island was the land of eternal plenty and happiness – it was inhabited and run by an advanced civilization not from our planet. These people were thought to have vast amounts of wealth at their fingertips, and high technology.


The island is also said to harbor fantastical cities that are run by powerful and mysterious priests. These priest rulers were thought to be the protectors of the secrets of the universe.

Hy-Brasil is listed as being typically shrouded in fog, hidden from the world of us mortals. It works on a loop – where it only shows itself to man once every seven years.

John Jay Jr.

Explorer John Jay Jr. departed from Bristol harbor in 1480, in search of this mythical Celtic island.

He spent a small fortunate on a large boat and a crew, and filled it with huge amounts of provisions…

He returned completely frustrated and empty handed after ten weeks at sea – the island had eluded him.

In 1481, two other ships (named the Trinity and the George) set sail from Bristol in search of Hy-Brasil and again they found the fabled land to be elusive.

John Cabot

The Italian explorer John Cabot was working for King Henry VII through the years of 1480 to 1497. He was charged with the task of locating North America…but he was also secretly looking for the island of Hy-Brasil.

John Cabot

We cannot be 100% sure that Cabot found this mythical island, but in 1497 he sent a rather cryptic message to the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. In this message he claimed that he had discovered the same land that the men from Bristol had found.

Does this imply that one of the Bristol expeditions had apparently actually managed to find it, after all?

Captain John Nesbitt

In 1674 Captain John Nesbitt claimed to have come across the island during a voyage from Ireland to France.

He reported that his ship suddenly got enveloped in a sea of fog, and then they spotted a rocky shore in the distance.

He hastily checked the local maps and realized that they were in the area where Hy-Brasil was meant to be. They all took a vote, and decided to go ashore and search the mystical land.

This is where his claims begin to get a little screwed up…

Nesbitt reported that the island was inhabited by giant black rabbits and that a wizard lived there alone in a stone castle.

His voyage eventually returned with large amounts of gold and silver – Nesbitt insisted that this wealth was given to them by a generous inhabitant of the island.

Not long after, another explorer named Alexander Johnson, apparently followed Nesbitt’s directions and also found the island – he backed up the claims of the large rabbits and the strange wizard…

If you have any thoughts or opinions on the subject we have covered here today, please leave them in the comment section below.

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