World’s Most Polluted Island Is in the Wrong Place

New technology shows that the remote and highly polluted uninhabited Henderson Island in the South Pacific has been mismarked on navigational charts for 85 years.

What to know:

  • The British patrol ship HMS Spey has determined that Henderson Island in the remote Pitcairn chain is 1 mile south of the position that has been marked on charts used by mariners the world over since 1937.

  • The Royal Navy has been using navigational charts supplied by the UK Hydrographic Office for more than 225 years and has been attempting to update carts using radar imagery gathered through sensors from ships and GPS positioning, overlaying the details on the existing charts of the Pitcairn chain.

  • A wider British government program is seeking to update maritime charts of waters around the UK’s Overseas Territories and improve navigation using sonar, airborne laser techniques, and satellites.

  • South Pacific currents dump as many as 40 million items of plastic and rubbish on the shores of Henderson Island each year, earning it the name of “the most polluted island in the world.”

  • Uninhabited and about the size of the small city of Oxford in England, Henderson is one of four islands in the Pitcairn chain which lies 3600 miles to the west of Chile and 32,200 miles northeast of New Zealand.

This is a summary of the article “Who moved the island? For 85 years Henderson island has been in the ‘wrong place,’ ” published by British Science Week on March 13. The full article can be found on en/

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