Esporte The FASCINATING legend of Hy Brasil: a mythical island off Ireland’s coast
Hy Brasil is a mythical island that is said to exist off the West coast of the Emerald Isle. As legend would have it, Hy Brasil is Ireland’s answer to Atlantis, the lost city immortalised in Ancient Greek text.
While no traces of the
island exist today, the landmass, which supposedly sits in the North Atlantic
Ocean about 321 km (200 miles) off the coast, can be seen on maps that span
from 1325 AD right up to the 19th century.
Indeed the myth still
lives, yet the question of whether this island ever really existed or whether
it is a product of ancient lore and tall tales is what we wish to explore here.
Here is the legend of
Hy Brasil: the mythical island off the coast of Ireland!
Although this island is most commonly referred to as Hy Brasil, it is known by many names. Hy-Breasal, Hy-Brazil, Hy-Breasil, Brazir, and Brasil are all commonly seen in usage when referencing the enchanted island off Ireland’s coast.
The name of the island
is derived from the Irish word Breasal, meaning High King of the World.
As the story goes, Hy
Brasil is a mysterious island that exists off the West coast of Ireland.
According to legend, the island is forever blanketed in thick fog and invisible
to the naked eye from the mainland or high seas.
One day every seven
years, the fog is said to subside and present this Eden that exists in the
North Atlantic Ocean. Even then, however, legend tells that the island is
impossible to reach.
Although this is an inherently Irish legend, the legend of Hy Brasil has circulated Europe and has been a topic of discussion for centuries. And in comparison to Ancient Greece’s lost Atlantis, Hy Brasil is in fact far more documented, with more first-person accounts on record.
There are many myths
shrouding this fantasy island. Some say Hy Brasil is the home of the gods of
Irish folklore; others say it is some utopian advanced civilization run by
monks and priests who possess ancient knowledge and live in paradise.
Over the centuries,
explorers and adventurers have set sail in search of Hy Brasil. In 1480, John
Jay Jr. left land in pursuit of the island. After two months, he returned
having failed to find or touch its shores.
Again in 1481, more
ships departed. This time the Trinity and the George left from Bristol but
again returned without having accomplished their mission.
Some, however, claim
to have been more successful in their pursuit. In 1497, there is a record that
a Spanish diplomat, Pedro de Ayala, claims that John Cabot—an Italian navigator—had
“discovered in the past by the men from Bristol who found Brasil.” This
suggests there had been men from the Bristol boats who set foot on Hy Brasil.
Again in 1674, it appears that the mythical landmass was reached. It is said that on passing the Atlantic from France to Ireland, Scottish sea captain John Nisbet spotted Hy Brasil and sent men ashore to bask in the glory of its golden shores.
success, more explorers were inspired to reach Hy Brasil. Captain Alexander
Johnson was the next to return successfully from the mysterious landmass.
Claims by Nisbet that large black rabbits and a mysterious magician inhabited the island were confirmed by Johnson, and the authenticity of Hy Brasil was cemented. As time moved on, however, reputable reports of sightings dwindled.
The last report of the
island was in 1872 by Robert O’Flaherty and T.J. Westropp. As an accomplished
antiquarian, folklorist, and archaeologist, Westropp claims he not only reached
the island but also brought his entire family in tow. Claims that Westropp saw
the mythical island appear and vanish before his very eyes are still disputed.
As time marched on,
increased failed attempts to reach the island overshone previous successful
pursuits, and the legend of Hy Brasil slowly started to fade back into the
Soon, maps began to
exclude its presence in the Atlantic Ocean, and the island would be left to
become to the stuff of legend.
347 x 469 mm; ¤ 1300
A record of this
island first appeared on an early map in 1325 by the Genoese cartographer
In 1375 it was seen in
the Catalan Atlas, but as two separated islands, existing as one under the name
of “Illa de Brasil.” It was named “Sola De Brasil” in 1436 on a Venetian map
curated by the cartographer Andrea Bianco, and in 1595 it appeared again in the
Ortelius Map of Europe and Europa Mercator Map.
The final time we see
Hy Brasil on a map is in 1865, and it is referred to as “Brazil rock.” By this
time, after so many failed attempts to reach the island, most cartographers had
chosen to stop featuring it.
The island is
consistently seen as a round-shaped landmass with a waterway or river channel
running through it from East to West.
While there is a possibility that this island did exist some centuries ago, when the sea levels were much lower, others dispute it ever existed, allocating its origins to that of a tall tale.
And then there is the
legend, which argues this fantasy island does still exist today, only to reveal
itself to the naked eye once every seven years.