After several decades of believing we were a nation of 7,107 islands, we’ve got some rewriting to do.
In 2016, the Philippines’ National Mapping and Resource Information Association (NAMRIA) announced that they had discovered 534 more islands, bringing the country’s new count to 7,641.
Because NAMRIA made the announcement in May 2016, which was around the same year we held a presidential election, this bit of news didn’t get a lot of coverage.
But for divers and intrepid travelers, the news is enough to make us breathe a little faster into our regulators and go “Wow!” 7,641 islands. That means maps redrawn, topography to survey, webpages to update, and possibly… islands to dive and explore?
NAMRIA says the new islands were discovered during the Philippine Island Measurement Project, launched in 2013. Using new technology, specifically a gadget known as the interferometric synthetic aperture radar, researchers were able to map the 534 new land masses, most of them in the southern island of Mindanao.
If you’re like us, you’re probably wondering how 500+ islands could be hanging out in plain sight, and not be discovered until now. It turns out that not all of the islands are “new.” Some of the “new” islands were counted individually when previously they were thought to be part of a single big island.
NAMRIA’s spokesperson says changing landforms and the capability of the new technology to detect new land masses are two reasons why the islands are only being recognized now. Better late than never we say.
In case you’re wondering, the new islands are not likely to have names anytime soon. In fact, only about 2,500 of the Philippines’ (now) 7,641 islands have been named. More than 5,000 are still unnamed, and more than 2,000 are uninhabited.
The new islands can herald good things for our country, such as more areas for scientific exploration, more natural resources available (harnessed in a proper and sustainable manner), and new and exciting dive sites to discover.
Check out some of our favorite reasons to dive the Philippines and the country’s best sites for underwater photography in this here. (“