The Japan Coast Guard says a small uninhabited island off the northern prefecture of Hokkaido may have disappeared due to erosion by waves and floating ice. The island named Esanbe Hanakita Kojima, about 500 meters off the village of Sarufutsu in northern Hokkaido, may have vanished.
The Coast Guard received a report from residents of the village earlier in October that the island could no longer be seen. A fisheries association sent out boats in mid-October only to find the island was missing.
Sarufutsu is Japan’s northernmost village, and it faces Sakhalin Island and the Sea of Okhotsk. Its proximity to the Siberian north means that it is affected by drift ice and storms in the wintertime. The Japan Coast Guard believes that it is possible that a combination of ice and wave action may have eroded the island over time. They say the height of the island was about 1.4 meters above sea level when a survey was conducted 31 years ago.
The Japanese government 4 years ago gave an official name to the island, which serves as the basis for the boundary of the country’s territorial waters.
The coast guard plans to carry out a detailed survey, as the apparent disappearance of the island could reduce Japan’s territorial waters.
Islands do occasionally disappear, and the phenomenon is becoming more common in the South Pacific: the Solomon Islands recently lost five uninhabited reef islands due to a combination of erosion and sea level rise, along with large parts of six others.