The dispute lasted for five months, during which the 61m-high island had already started to sink. âAt the end of September, it was about 60 feet [18m] high. A month later, it was only a few meters tall. And finally, between December 1831 and January 1832 – it completely disappeared, âexplains Cavallaro. The problem, he says, is that the base of the island was mostly made up of slag rock – also known as âashâ. âThey are very fragile, and can be very easily eroded by sea waves,â explains Cavallaro.
Surprisingly enough, France’s polls had warned of this possibility, but the country had continued to claim ownership of the rapidly disappearing piece of rock.
The promise of another strategic foothold in the Mediterranean may have ended in disappointment for all three parties, but the ephemeral island has proven to be an inspiration to many writers, including Jules Verne. “He knew the history of the island because it was well known in France by the geological society, ” says Salvatore Ferlita, professor of Italian literature at Kore University of Enna. The writer mentioned the island in the novel In Search of the Castaways and it became the Treasure Island in his latest novel Captain Antifer. It’s even possible that JM Barrie’s Neverland – the home of his most famous creation, Peter Pan – was inspired by âthe island that wasn’t there,â Ferlita says.
Between myth and legend, and despite its disappearance, the island never left the popular imagination, and over the next two centuries, apparent signs of volcanic activity raised hopes that the island – or a very similar – could one day return to the Strait of Sicily.
One of the most notable events occurred in 1968, when an earthquake in the area was followed by the apparent boiling of seawater around the island’s former location. This led some to believe that the events of 1831 would be repeated. The Sicilians weren’t going to risk losing ownership of the island, and Blando says they placed a stone slab over the island’s relics to assert their rights. He said: “This strip of land, formerly Isola Ferdinandea, belonged and will always belong to the Sicilian people.”