Null Island. Place For Your Lost Data

Posted by TotalDC

Every day, a lot of people looking for digital directions on their computers and smartphones are diverted to an isolated spot on the Atlantic Ocean, more than 1000 kilometers off the coast of Africa, where the Prime Meridian and the equator intersect. It’s called Null Island.

Null Island is an imaginary island located at 0°N 0°E in the South Atlantic Ocean. This point is where the equator meets the prime meridian. The exact origins of “Null Island” are unknown, but it did reach a wide audience in 2011 when it was drawn into Natural Earth, a public domain map dataset developed by volunteer cartographers and GIS analysts. Null Island’s purpose was to help analysts flag errors in a process known as “geocoding.”

What is geocoding you may be asking? Geocoding is a function performed in a GIS that involves taking data and converting it into geographic coordinates, which can then be easily mapped. But here comes human typos wrong data, or even glitches, and then the geocoding process doesn’t always run as it is supposed to. For example, if there happens to be misspelled street names or non-existent building numbers, other errors can create invalid addresses that can confuse a geocoder and assign 0°N 0° coordinates. Even though we know that this is an error, for systems such as Google Maps this is a valid and default location where thousands of searches with errors go since those coordinates exist. And that’s how we end up on Null Island.

Today there is a whole background behind this island, this place even has its flag when there where there is only a buoy floating in the middle of the water.