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HOAX – ‘Google Earth Finds SOS From Woman Stranded on Deserted Island’

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on March 20, 2014

Outline

Circulating report that features an image depicting an SOS sign drawn on the ground and viewed from a high altitude, claims that the sign was made by a woman stranded on a deserted island for 7 years. The report suggests that the SOS was finally spotted via Google Earth. 

Brief Analysis

The report is untrue. The event described never took place. The image is a cropped version of a satellite picture showing an SOS sign created by people caught up in a  conflict at the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan in 2010. The uncropped image shows buildings and roadways and clearly does not depict a deserted island. The report comes courtesy of NewsHound, a website that specializes in perpetrating false and misleading articles disguised as news.

 

Example

GOOGLE EARTH FINDS WOMAN TRAPPED ON DESERTED ISLAND FOR 7 YEARS
In 2007, Gemma Sheridan and 2 friends set out on a voyage that was to take them from their home town of Liverpool, across the Atlantic to the Panama Canal and then onwards to the beautiful island of Hawaii.

The first stage of the voyage went without incident. However, after passing through the Panama Canal and into the Pacific, things started to take a turn for the worse.

Stranded Woman SOS Hoax message

 

Detailed Analysis

According to a report currently circulating via social media, a woman stranded on a deserted island for seven years has been rescued after a Google Earth user spotted an SOS sign she had drawn on the island’s beach.

The report outlines the harrowing tale of how the woman, Gemma Sheridan, was trapped on the island back in 2007 after her boat was wrecked in a storm. It features a picture of the SOS sign that was spotted on Google Earth by ‘some kid from Minnesota’.

However, while it may be somewhat entertaining, the story is untrue. Searches reveal that snippets of the story’s text were stolen from a factual news report about the experience of former army captain Ed Stafford, who survived for sixty days on his own on a deserted island. But, other than that nebulose connection, the story is purely a work of fiction.

Moreover, a quick reverse image search on the SOS picture reveals that it has no connection whatsoever to the fake ‘deserted island’ story. The picture actually depicts an SOS message created by people caught up in a  conflict that occurred in the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan back in June 2010. As shown below, the original uncropped satellite SOS image shows buildings and roadways and quite clearly does not show a beach on a deserted island:

Original SOS Message
(Image (c) Digital Globe 2010)

The original version fake report originates from NewsHound, a publication that seemingly specialised in publishing all manner of nonsense disguised as news. In another ‘news’ story, it regurgitated the absurd claim that an upcoming ‘planetary alignment’ will decrease Earth’s gravity. And, in yet another, it publishes an old hoax about KFC changing its name because it no longer users real chicken. In short, nothing published on the site should be taken seriously.

The NewsHound website has been removed from the Internet. However, the same report has subsequently appeared on various other fake-news and clickbait websites.



Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer