If there was an island civilization, somewhere deep in the Atlantic, how would this society prevent the outside world from discovering it?

This society has been around since the Roman Empire, and is quite in touch with the outside world. They have all modern technology, except all members of this society have possession of elemental magic. In this society, their secrecy is vital and super important. They want to be able to access the world without the world accessing them.

Could there be any geological explanations for the island somehow remaining undiscovered?

Or would their technology need to be more advanced than the outside world? In terms of a magnetic field etc.

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    $\begingroup$ In the era of Google Maps, nothing can be hidden. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly, so if there was a way to interfere with that technology, what would be the most effective way? Is there any possible way to possibly intervene with the satellite imagery? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ @MaddieWilson not without a Cloaking Device. Any spot perpetually obscured or hidden by cloud would have been visited decades (or centuries!) ago as a matter of curiosity. Humans tend to notice the unusual and investigate. See Brigadoon, Dr Doolittle, Wonder Woman, etc. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 1:53
  • $\begingroup$ Cloaking Device it is! I just wanted to test the other possibilities, thank you. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ do you need undiscovered or just unremarkable, there are lots of communities that see virtually no visitors, especially in remote regions. Places only accessible by long foot trails or even longer boat rides tend to top the lists. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 17:28

4 Answers 4


the Atlantic

This is the worst choice possible. It was being explored and fished in for as long as we have paper records, and maybe before that. It's not a place you can hide an island bigger than a family car. And because European governments were always keen on grabbing every bit of land they could find and stuffing a flag and some troops on it (it's a habit we got into) you'd be an English/French/Spanish/Dutch/Portuguese colony in no time - if not all of them in turn.

So not the Atlantic. The Pacific was lovely and quiet by comparison (until WW2).

In practical terms the best approach is to hide in plain sight.

Visually hiding it is no good - radar and thermal imaging would spot it. Hiding the civilization underground won't work either - they would have thermal signatures and military surveillance is particularly interested in looking for underground complexes.

You mentioned magic and this does tend to mean they can just magic themselves out of the way, but it's so arbitrary I am ignoring it.

People travel everywhere and mysterious bit of unexplored area tend to attract the curious. The words "no one ever checks that bit" would be like a magnet to geologists, oceanographers, explorers and people trying to get away from everyone else.

Short version: you can't hide so don't.

You hide in plain sight.

You create an apparently poor looking culture, not great climate, no attractive beaches and dull as a very dull thing landscapes. That should keep most people away. Be entirely unhelpful to any visitors.

Stick a bunch of natural obstacles around the island to deter visitors. Nasty jagged rocks just below the sea which are tedious to navigate through, lousy currents prone to drowning the unwary and just be a nuisance enough to deter those determined to be nosy.

Geographically a hilly, rocky place where not much grows but you can graze cattle and live a minimal life (or so it seems). No area large enough to e.g. plonk a runway. No bays ideal for sheltering the fleet. Cliff faces that deter the beach dwelling types and no exciting hills or volcanoes that attract climbers or geologists. Dull, boring, unattractive.

Initially, these things would deter most explorers (although not European monarchies that will colonize places like the Falklands/Malvinas, which are exactly as described :-) ).

Now you can hide the real civilization just behind the scenes.

This part is important: minimize EM radiation - island wide wi-fi is not a good idea to stay hidden. If you set up any comms use carefully hidden wiring.

Likewise, keep thermal emission low or find an excuse for that big thermal hot spot where your generators and industrial equipment are: the island is, after all, allowed to have some industry to keep it going, and it's probably inefficient (or so it appears) and maybe that will do it.

Get rid of any wildlife that could even remotely interest a biologist - those guys are a pain to get rid of.

So people visiting glance at it and go, "bit dull, no beaches, no oil, no minerals, no agriculture worth speaking of, no internet - get me out of here !".

Keep in mind that you mind find that periodically your island is occupied for strategic reasons in times of war. This normally results in the said military leaving when the need of the moment is past and leaving nothing more than a mess behind.

Likewise, by hiding in plain sight, you allow your own people to quite legitimately visit the outside world without raising any real interest beyond "what's Mystery Island like anyway ?", "quiet, dull, poor, no internet" - conversation ends. You can even join the UN and do the normal things: never support any vote or initiative that would draw attention to yourselves.

I'm sure you can do a better job of this idea if you give it a go.

Now I consider magic to be a cop-out, but maybe your islanders can use magic a little to help with this. Whip up a nasty storm that sinks or damages a lot of ships when someone starts parking their fleet around you, that sort of thing ("luckily" the islanders will survive, shaken but in one piece).

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    $\begingroup$ It occurs to me that this solution could just as easily describe a secret volcano lair. It'd solve the thermal hot spot problem neatly, though you may occasionally have to deal with nosy secret agents. $\endgroup$
    – Pingcode
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 3:11
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    $\begingroup$ Secret volcanic lair comes with two problems : the volcano (!) and the geologists. Hard to decide which is worse, really. :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 3:14
  • $\begingroup$ How do you deal with the anthropologists who come to study the island's culture and history? They're going to explore, dig, and ask questions. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ OMG It's Iceland! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Censoredtoprotecttheguilty In defense of Iceland they have slightly too interesting a geology for our purposes. :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 21:00

My answer is based on some ideas from Stephen's.

You don't hide from detection, you hide in plain sight. What you need is a privately owned island, such as Necker Island.

Since your atlanteans have been around for ages, procuring the means to eventually own the island should be easy.

Now they should start a facade crackpot cult that call themselves "the Atlanteans" - seriously! Just start a website claiming that the atlanteans have achieved illumination, and as such they know that vaccines cause autism, the Earth is flat and mankind has never made it to the Moon, which happens to be infested with aliens. Also, Xenu sent 75 billion aliens to die on Earth aeons ago and electromagnetic therapy is true and psychology is false.

And then Bob's your uncle. Atlanteans are free to do whatever it is that they do, and as long as they keep the crackpot facade they will be left to their own devices.

Just think of it. Any non atlantean who visits their island -or gets in contact with them anywhere else, really - and then comes back to civilization claiming to have witnessed supernatural feats (elemental magic), or to have seen wonders of hitherto unseen technology, will be dismissed as just another crackpot.

The atlanteans may even fabricate tales of defectors among themselves just to further discredit those who would reveal their secrets.

As a bonus, they can make an expletive amount of money by:

  • Selling books and merchandise for crackpots;
  • Youtube channels that have conspiracy theories as the main theme;
  • New age tourism for those who believe in things such as humans substituting sunlight for food.
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    $\begingroup$ The "fiscal haven" would attract the unwanted attention of every single government tax service (and investment bank) in the world and you'd be knee deep in the two things you don't want : curiosity and investigators. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ @stepheng you're righr, I edited that out. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre you don't have to care about the anthropologists, they are going to be considered crackpots if they ever report what they see. As for the atlanteans themselves, they are supposedly smarter than the rest of humanity and magic users to boot, they should be able to easily separate fact from fiction. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ If a respected scientist says, "Hey, there's something unusual over here," do you A) dismiss them off hand as another crackpot, or B) take a look at what intrigued them? Choosing option B at every turn is how we made it to our modern society. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre if a respected scientist says "Hey, I think there might be something to this wacky conspiracy theory" the common response seems to be to just drop the descriptor "respected" from that scientist and leave it at that. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 12:17

It might be easier in the Pacific

There are a few islands left with more-or-less uncontacted people, like the Sentinelese or the Jarawas. It would be quite plausible to add another island with another tribe, or to take one of the existing islands.

As Stephen pointed out, the Atlantic may be a worse location than elsewhere.

  • Place your island on the Atlantic coast of Central America, as a mirror of the fictional Isla Nublar, or somewhere near the Amazon estuary.
  • Or on the Atlantic coast of the Terra del Fuego.

In either case, people would know generally that the island exists, and there would be a government claiming it. The people who think they own it just never got around to using it and they have no idea that there are "native people" on it. Or perhaps they know, but they think the "natives" are underdeveloped.


Since we are talking about elemental magic here and modern technology.

  • Location would probably somewhere underwater. Deepest level underwater like Marianas trench? or somewhere in Bermuda triangle? (since people are afraid to go there for some reasons.)
  • Use your magic to create a sphere of air underwater. Start building from there.
  • Create some kind of mirror or glass reflector barrier to avoid being seen by any living creatures.
  • Also consider putting some teleportation factor so if ever they hit the magical barrier, they would just be teleported to the other side like nothing happened.
  • Explorers usually uses sonar technology to locate things underwater that can't be seen. So also put that in your magical barrier. Make it absorb or negate sounds that would pass through.
  • For the heat scanners, I'm not sure if the currently can do it
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    – Secespitus
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 10:52

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