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Hy-Brasil, the other Atlantis

Brasil showing up on the map of Ireland by Abraham Ortelius in 1572

When discussing underwater lore and legends, Atlantis is an obvious subject of interest. However, the lost island of Hy-Brasil is just as intriguing and has more first-person accounts.

Hy-Brasil is also spelled Hy-Breasal, Hy-Brazil, Hy-Breasil, Brazir and related variations. It may be the reason that the South American country, Brazil, was so named. The central image on the Brazilian flag, a circle with a channel across the center, is the symbol for Hy-Brasil on early maps.

The name of Hy-Brasil may come from the Middle Ages term brazil, which seems to indicate a source of rare red dye. The dye may have acquired its name from the legendary island, or vice versa.

Or, the name Hy-Brasil, also called the Fortunate Island, may originate with the old Irish word, breas, meaning noble or fortunate.

In folklore, this island country takes its name from Breasal, the High King of the World, in Celtic history.

(He may or may not be related to Bresal Echarlam mac Echach Baethlaim, from the stories of Lugh at Tara. He was not St. Breasal, although pre-Christian folklore may be the foundation for that saint’s legends.)

Hy-Brasil was noted on maps as early as 1325, when Genoese cartographer Dalorto placed the island west of Ireland. On successive sailing charts, it appears southwest of Galway Bay.

On some 15th century maps, islands of the Azores appear as Isola de Brazil, or Insulla de Brazil.

After 1865, Hy-Brasil appears on few maps since its location could not be verified.

Regardless of the name or location, the island’s history is consistent: It is the home of a wealthy and highly advanced civilization. Those who visited the island returned with tales of gold-roofed towers and domes, healthy cattle, and opulent citizens.

The lore of Hy-Brasil is equally fascinating. For example, it is shrouded in fog or perhaps beneath the ocean, and appears only briefly, once every seven years.

The island has been visited by many people for centuries. Both Saint Barrind and Saint Brendan found the island on their respective voyages, and returned home with nearly identical descriptions of Hy-Brasil, which they dubbed the “Promised Land.”

One of the most famous visits to Hy-Brasil was in 1674 by Captain John Nisbet of Killybegs, Co. Donegal, Ireland. He and his crew were in familiar waters west of Ireland, when a fog came up. As the fog lifted, the ship was dangerously close to rocks. While getting their bearings, the ship anchored in three fathoms of water, and four crew members rowed ashore to visit Hy-Brasil.

They spent a day on the island, and returned with silver and gold given to them by an old man who lived there. Upon the return of the crew to Ireland, a second ship set out under the command of Alexander Johnson.

They, too, found the hospitable island of Hy-Brasil and returned to Ireland to confirm the tales of Captain Nisbet and crew.

The last documented sighting of Hy-Brasil was in 1872, when author T. J. Westropp and several companions saw the island appear and then vanish. This was Mr. Westropp’s third view of Hy-Brasil, but on this voyage he had brought his mother and some friends to verify the existence of Hy-Brasil.

Researchers and archaeologists have searched in the most likely locations west of Ireland, and there is evidence that islands existed there. Shallow-water shells have been found at Porcupine Bank, somewhat northwest of the most likely location of Hy-Brasil. Even further north, similar shells were discovered at Rockhall.

So, there is evidence of land mass changes in that part of the Atlantic Ocean.

The most distinctive geographical feature of Hy-Brasil, is that it appears on maps as a perfect circle, with a semi-circular channel through the center. The circular perimeter of the island was confirmed by both Saints Barrind and Brendan, who separately walked the shore to determine where the island ended, but never found it. Most likely, they were walking in circles.

Although Hy-Brasil does not have the fame of Atlantis, outside role-playing games, it is a story worth exploring.

Other names for Hy-Brasil: Tir fo-Thuin (Land Under the Wave), Mag Mell (Land of Truth), Hy na-Beatha (Isle of Life), and Tir na-m-Buadha (Land of Virtue). Fourteeth and Fifteenth century maps spell Hy-Brasil as Ysole Brazil, Bracir, and Hy Breasail.

References:

  • Phantom Islands of the Atlantic, by Donald S. Johnson
  • Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, by Peter Berresford Ellis
  • Celtic Myth and Legend, by Mike Dixon-Kennedy

You may find other articles from Fiona at her website, Faerie Magick.

About Fiona

Fiona Broome is an author, historian and consultant. Her research is usually extreme and groundbreaking, applying to a variety of fields. Online, she’s respected as the founder of Hollow Hill, one of the Internet’s oldest and largest websites about ghosts and haunted places.

28 comments

  1. So did it perish too? How could they not verify it as late as the 1870s?

  2. Lol!!! We are certainly a trick of imagination, though I suspect a lot of Brazilian politicians are living in this utopic island :D

  3. Brazil is a region filled with dense forests, underwater When discussing knowledge and legends, Atlantis is the subject of interest very clear. However, the lost island of Hy-Brasil equally interesting and had more first person accounts.
    <a href=http://marotravel.com/pulau-tidung-murah/>Travel Pulau Tidung</a>

  4. some of the most melancholy comforting melodies and lyrics ever . thank you for posting the original Hungarian composer

  5. you are wise beyond your years. keep asking questions knowledge it the key to setting ones self free

  6. I'm amazed that with so much geology proving how landmass and plate tectonics have been constantly sculpting Earth; separating and merging continents, that we find it so hard to accept that advanced civilisations may well pre date our timeline on cultural history. Maybe we are still in the dark ages consigning tales of lost lands and peoples as myths….maybe it threatens our perceptions of ourselves or who we like to think we are!!….But what if…..?

  7. Perhaps this was the island west of Ireland where spirits went. King Arthur and others went to the island west of Britain & Ireland. Is this Hy Brasil?

  8. Just heard about Hy Brasil on the History Channel.

  9. maybe someone just spilled soup on the map, yeah name sounds made up on the spot by a clumsy crouton muncher to me lol x

  10. Anyone heard of the lost island of Hy Brasil off the coast of ireland? It was last seen in 1875. Its fascinating!

  11. This is fascinating. I have only recently searched about it on the internet, amazing what one can find. Being Irish, it is even more interesting. Here’s something to think about. In Ireland we have four provinces, Munster (Cúige Muamhain), Leinster (Cúige Laighean), Ulster (Cúige Ulaidh) and Connaught (Cúige Connacht). Now, in Irish, cúige is the word for a fifth. Ireland once had five provinces. There is debate as to where this extra province once lay, though it’s accepted it did exist. It is thought that it possibly consisted of the counties Waterford, Wexford, Tipperary and Kilkenny or Carlow. But this is just a theory. Considering the speculation about Hy-Brasil, is it not possible that this was once our fifth province? I love that idea. We should be sending expeditions to it. I mean, there is proof of sunken cities in the Mediterranean sea even.
    Also, it has been visited in the past, but possibly not excavated, and it shouldn’t be excavated. It is a raised part of the sea bed which consists of thriving cold water coral. It is possible that this raised part of the sea bed on the edge of the Irish plate could be hugely beneficial to fish stocks, as the cold water coral is ideal for breeding. Which is possibly the reason the French and Spanish seek more fishing rights in Irish waters, because we have the best fish.

  12. 一直相信2012,听说这个地方是很少看得见的,不知是不是真的,这世界有太多我们不了解的东西。

  13. Amazing! I sense Atlantis, or part of it is this isle…the USAF sgt. who touched that ship no doubt got a mindfull…as I did when I astral traveled…we are NOT alone people…ages ago, many advanced peoples lived on earth.

  14. Hello all :)

    My first post here. I too watched ancient aliens last night and I was mystified and intrigued by what I heard of this place called Hy Brasil. I am somewhat of a skeptic but having a programming background I couldn’t help but become perplexed of the man’s story of having the binary code downloaded and what came of it. If indeed the story is true. It would normally be impossible to memorize so much code as the programmer on the show indicated.

    I don’t know I could be way off because I haven’t researched any correlations to this theory but when I first hear of this I couldn’t help but reflect on the Arthurian Legend of Avalon. I know the region is somewhat correct. What does strike me as being very familiar are the accounts of the mists or “shrouds of fog” that make the island appear and re-appear which bears a striking resemblance to the legend of Avalon.

    • I agree, the legendary lost Island of Hy-Brazil does resonate a possible connection to the Arthurian legends of Avalon also struck me while watching this program as well. Of course it led me to do more online research. Seems one of the alleged accounts was that there was an old man “a Magician” that lived on the Island…could this be the legendary “Merlin”? It is my belief that in all the worlds Myths and Legends…there is a “core truth” to them and over the centuries have been embellished to the point that we now just see them as just mythical fantasy’s.

      • I too believe that in all myths and legends there lies a grain of truth. Just think many years ago it was believed that the ancient city of Troy was pure fiction.

  15. There is not much hard evidence that exists in reality.
    Of this is a rare old medal and map. passed down generations.
    It does exist as do fragments of material from this orb island.
    There was at one time long ago a historical holy route to this Island of the visited, of which traces and ruins still exist today.
    Although as stated its location and degrees it is far from that location.
    Also the timeline for it to appear again off target, the correct time line is in fact 07/09/11
    Several combinations of time and ancient forces will combine then to herald in the fracture.

    • Our present time is the history of the future and will no doubt be just as mysterious as the past is to us now. Regardless where the exact location of Hy Brasil is situated, the TV programme and subsequent blogs have inspired a new interest in this ancient isle. I believe that one of its locations has been identified with Porcupine Bank, a shoal in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 kilometres off the west coast of Ireland. Apparently this location is also referred to by author Graham Hancock in his book ‘Underworld Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age’. The truth is ‘out there’ but whether we will discover this in our life time is debatable. If scientists, archaeologists and mystics combined their energies and worked together then much more would be achievable in less time and the hidden wonders of ancient civilisations could be revealed to all. The timeline suggested by Grand Master is particularly interesting and a pleasant change to the hype about 2012. As a historian and natural intuitive of Irish descent, I am hoping to visit the area near Dingle Bay with my binoculars soon and the new date of 07/09/11 sounds grand to me!

  16. has there ever been any expeditions to find the island,has anyone actually dived underwater at the co-ordinates to see whats there???

  17. It was our peoples spaceship

  18. Wow!!! Just saw the show Shaun Phelan mentioned January 13th and found it fascinating.
    A quick look on Google brought me here…I like solving a great mystery and always want to know more.

  19. Interestingly if you use Google Earth and search the coordinates in the are of 52dg 54′ 54.49″ N by 13dg 10″ 14.97″ W you will see a subsurface conical anomaly.

    Interesting stuff.

  20. it was a rock formation that appeared during the last ice age – and supposedly had an advanced civilization living on it. Most of it sank beneath the rising ocean level, except for a few areas that remained until approximately 500 years ago , when erosion and tides eventually covered everything else that was left remaining, which in some history books were small towns and villages.

  21. There was a ufo event that took place in 1980 rendlesham forest England on a military base. One of the men involved claims to have touched the ufo. When he touched the ufo he instantly got a string of binary code uploaded in his brain. He had no idea what the pattern of ones and zeros meant but wrote it down anyways. Just recently he took the code to a computer programmer who put it in his computer and deciphered the code. This is what it said. Exploration of humanity continuous for planetary advance. It also gave these coordinates 52 09′ 42.532″N 13 13′ 12.69″W . This is the location of Hy-Brasil.

    • I am from Ireland, and have fished all around that area. I can say that there are a lot of islands, I have in the past seen a large bunch of rock appear under certain tides. Some of the rocks look like they have been carved. I went home and done some research on islands of the west cost of Ireland, That’s when i learned about hy brasil.

    • Interestingly this web site says that it appears once every 7 years and that the last documented appearance was in 1872…. well I did the math and the next appearance should be in 2012 if this information was correct which is also the day that the Mayan calendar ends and supposedly the world will change dramatically.

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