Frisland is the name given to one of the legendary islands of the North Atlantic, ‘located’ just south of Iceland. The story goes that it was discovered around 1380 by the Venetian, Nicolo Zeno (1326-1402) and that a record of his adventures there, together with a now famous map (see below), were published in 1558 by a descendant. A decade later the celebrated Flemish cartographer, Geradus Mercator (1512-1594), published a comparable map, which also showed Frisland at much the same location and with a similar outline. Cornelius Wytfliet produced a map of the North Atlantic in 1597 depicting Frisland at the same location(c). It did not take long for doubts to be expressed about both the map and its accompanying narrative. Donald S. Johnson in his excellent Phantom Islands of the Atlantic concluded that Frisland was probably a case of ‘mistaken identity’, incorporating “the geography of the Faroe Islands and the contour of Iceland.”
*A January 2018 National Geographic article(e) also discusses the story of non-existent islands, including Frisland, which are the subject of a new book, The Un-Discovered Islands, by Malachy Tallack.*
Riaan Booysen who controversially locates Atlantis on a large landmass of which Australia is a ‘remnant’(a) has also written about Frisland(b). He concluded that Frisland along with many other ‘mythical’ North Atlantic can be matched with present-day underwater features in ‘relatively’ shallow waters suggesting that they were dry land during the last Ice Age when sea levels were considerably lower. He believes that their inclusion on extant maps is the result of copying much earlier charts that recorded those exposed landmasses.
D.S. Allan & J.B. Delair in their acclaimed book Cataclysm discuss the Zeno map at some length and concluded that its depiction of Greenland is based on earlier maps, “which apparently antedate Greenland’s present glacial regime” and “there are, apparently no genuine arguments for regarding the Zeno map – curious though it may seem to modern eyes – as portraying anything but that which actually once existed on Greenland in the not so very remote past.” (p.249)
Jason Colavito has highlighted the controversy surrounding the Zeno Map(d).