Ireland’s Atlantis: Fact or Myth

Abraham Ortelius Map of Europe
Hy -Brasil Map
Hy - Brasil West of Ireland
Porcupine Bank

Name Variations

Hy – Brasil is variously spelt as Hy – Brazil, Hy – Breasal, Hy – Breasil, or Brazir.  Its name may be derived from Old Irish hy, a variation of í, meaning ‘island’ or brasil from the root word bres, meaning ‘beautiful / great / mighty.’ [i]  This island’s name in Celtic folklore history was attributed to Breasal the High King of the World who may or may not have been related to Bresal Echarlam mac Echach Baethlaim from the tales of Lugh at Tara. [ii]  Another interesting aspect is the presence of the name Brasil in proper names, place – names or family names within Ireland.  In a telephone directory for Tralee, Co. Kerry variations of the surname were Brassil, Brassill, Brazier, Brazil, Brazill also Brazzill while a small grocery store was called Brassils Store plus in Ballyheigue was Brassilo’s Guest House.  [iii]  According to ‘More Irish Families’ by Edward Mac Lysaght: Brassil or Brazil or again O ‘Brasil are Anglicised versions of the Irish surname O ’Breasail from Counties Waterford and Offaly.  He stated that the name O Bressyl was recorded in 1285 while O ‘Brasil existed in 1308. [iv]  Other names for the island were: Tir fo-Thuín (Land under the Wave). Meg Mell (Land of Truth), Hy-na-Beatha (Isle of Life) also Tir na – m – Bruadha (Land of Virtue).  On 14th / 15th century maps the island is also called Ysole Brazil. [v]


‘The legend goes back much further, probably into Pre – Christian times, appearing first in the seventh century in an Irish text known as ‘The Adventure of Bran Son of Febel’ that tells the tale of Bran’s visit to this Other World island ‘supported on pillars of gold where games were played, people are always happy, there is no sorrow or sickness, and music is always to be heard – truly a land of the blessed.’  The story of Hy- Brasil was also used to reinforce Christian doctrine.  This can be found in a rare text: ‘Voyage to O ‘Brazeel’ or the submarine island, that provides a brief description of the customs, manners. government, law and religion of the island’s inhabitants.  The Manuscript written between 1558 and 1603 has a description of a fantastical journey to O ’Brazeel, a submarine island that sunk off the coast of Ireland.  Below the waters, enclosed in a type of huge bubble, there was a small country: –  a land of virtue and Christian faith – with happy people.  The island was purported to be shrouded in mist or appeared briefly once every seven years.  It was the home of a wealthy or highly advanced civilization.  There were reports of gold-roofed towers plus domes also healthy cattle.  [vi]


Hy – Brasil was noted on Nautical Charts as early as 1325 on the Genoese Cartographer Angelino Dulcert’s map that he identified as ‘Bracile.’  It later appeared in the 1375 Catalan Atlas which placed it as two separate islands with the same name ‘Illa de Brasil’.  During 1436 the Venetian Cartographer Andrea Bianco called it ‘Sola De Brasil’.  On the Ortelius Map of Europe and Europa Mercator Maps of 1595 the island appeared in various locations.  The island appeared as a perfect circle with a semi – circle channel through the centre thought to have been a river. Saints Brendan and Barrind both attested to this information on walking the island. [vii]

Unsuccessful expeditions to discover the island’s location occurred including the great voyage of John Jay Jr. during 1840.  The Navigator John Cabot’s (Giovanni Caboto) letter detailing his success of 1497 led to the myth of the ‘island appearing from the mist every seven years’ [viii]

One of the most famous visits during 1674 to Hy – Brasil was by Scottish Captain John Nisbet of Kellybegs, Co. Donegal.  While in familiar waters a fog rose up but when it lifted:  they were very close to rocks.  Getting their bearings, the ship anchored in three fathoms of water, then four crew members went ashore.  They spent the day on the island before they returned with gold and silver given to them by an old man.  Later a second ship under the command of Alexander Johnson visited the island where they were also treated with hospitality.  [ix]


There are many references to Hy – Brasil in poems, novels or old manuscripts including works by famous Irish writers; including W. B. Yeats who reproduced Gerald Griffin’s poem ‘Hy – Brasail, the Isle of the Blest’ in his publication ‘Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry’ during 1888.

‘Hy – Brasail – the Land of the Blest’ by Gerald Griffin;

On the ocean that hollows the rocks where ye dwell

A shadowy land has appeared, as they tell;

Men thought it a region of sunshine and rest,

And they called Hy -Brasail, the isle of the blest.

From year unto year on the ocean’s blue rim,

The beautiful spectre showed lovely and dim;

The golden clouds curtained the deep where it lay,

And it looked like an Eden, away, far away!


A peasant who heard of the wonderful tale,

In the breeze of the Orient loosened his sail;

From Ara, the holy, he turned to the west,

For though Ara was holy, Hy – Brasail was blest.

He heard not the voices that called from the shore –

He heard not the rising wind’s menacing roar;

Home, kindred, and safety, he left on that day,

And he sped to Hy – Brasail, away, far away!


Morn rose on the deep, and that shadowy isle,

O’er the faint rim of distance, reflected its smile;

Noon burned on the wave, and that shadowy shore

Seemed lovelily distant, and faint as before;

Lone evening came down on the wanderer’s tract,

And to Ara again he looked timidly back;

Oh! far on the verge of the ocean it lay,

Yet the isle of the blest was away, far away!


Rash dreamer, return! O, ye winds of the main,

Bear him back to his own peaceful Ara again.

Rash fool! For a vision of fanciful bliss,

To barter the calm life of labour and peace.

The warning of reason was spoken in vain;

He never revisited Ara again!

Night fell on the deep, amidst tempest and spray,

And he died on the waters, away, far away!  [x]

Removal from Charts

The last documented sighting of the island was during 1872 when Roderick (Ruairíe) O ‘Flaherty and author T. J. Westropp saw the island appear then vanish.  It was Mr. Westropp’s third viewing of Hy – Brasil but on that occasion he had his mother with some friends along. [xi] In ‘A Chorographical Description of West or H-Iar Connacht’ (1684) he reported that ‘there is now living, Moragh (Murrough) O ‘Ley, (O Laoí) who imagined he was personally on O ‘Brasil for two days, and saw out of it the Iles of Aran, Golamhead, Irrosbeghill, and other places of the west continent he was acquainted with.’ [xii]  John O ‘Donovon, An Irish language scholar and writer elaborated on the story during 1839 when he said that O ‘Laoí was a sailor of a ship that landed on the island; when they prepared to leave a stranger handed him a book but he was ordered not to open it until seven years had passed.  He followed the instruction, that enabled him to take up a career practising medicine with surgery.  Apparently, the book contained secret lore to treat illnesses.  [xiii]

The last mention of Hy – Brasil was possibly within the book ‘Antique Maps’ by Carl Moreland and David Bannister that provided a brief account of the islands presence on maps plus sums up its impressive life: ‘It is hard to believe that as late as the eighteenth century seamen still seeking these islands and so often had Brazil been ‘sighted’ that geographers were reluctant to abandon the possibly of its existence: in fact it was finally removed from British Admiralty Charts in the 1870’s’  The island was last noted as Brazil Rock  during 1865. [xiv]

Another Mystery

During December 1980 Sargent Jim Penniston telepathically received 16 pages of a Binary Code from an encounter with a UFO (called the Rendlesham Forest Incident) by touching the craft outside a Military base in the U. K.  The code listed very specific coordinates of Hy- Brasil; (52. 0942532N 13. 131269W) He also received the coordinates of several ancient sites worldwide including; Pyramids of Egypt, Nasca Lines in Peru, Greece, Sedona in Arizona, Northern Mountains in China, Australia.  [xv]  This is a link to the Code:

Further to this one may read very interesting text from Gary Osborn 2012 at this link:

Mystery Explained?

There is evidence of geological land mass changes in that western part of the Atlantic Ocean. The island’s disappearance may be attributed to that event. [xvi]  The so – called Porcupine Bank discovered during 1862 appeared to have been an island at some point in time.  Located about 193 km west of Ireland, it is a shoal exposed at extreme low tide where an 1830 Chart had ‘Brazil Rock’ located on it.  The Bank’s highest point is around 200 metres below sea level: it was possibly sunk due to a catastrophe or rising sea level. (Hill Bryan, 16th August 2015)  [xvii]


The Royal Irish Academy has a ‘Book of the Island of O ‘Brasil’ or ‘The Land of the O ‘Lees’ possibly from the 15th century. [xviii]

As early as 1870 a paper was read to the Geological Society of Ireland re the island.  In an edition of 1883 ‘Notes & Queries’ plus during the twentieth century Graham Hancock’s book ‘Underworld; The Mysterious Origins of Civilization’ was published. [xix]

BBC Radio 4 has a Programme written and narrated by Paul Evens of a fictional trip to Hy -Brasil at this link:

It is stated on this link that; Even yet at intervals, like a phantom, Hy – Brasil appears on the Atlantic.  No later than the summer of 1908 it is said to have been seen from West Ireland (as that strange invisible island near Innishmurray inhabited by the invisible ‘Gentry’ is seen) once if seven years.  And too many men  of  intelligence testify to have seen Hy  Brasil at the  same moment when they have been together or seperated, for it to be explained as an ordinary illusion, nor can it be due to a mirage such as we know, because neither its shape nor position seems to conform to any known island on any land mass.

Further Reading

Cunliffe B. 2001 Oxford ‘Facing the Ocean: the Atlantic and its peoples’.

Johnson D. S. 1997 London ‘Phantom islands of the Atlantic: the legends of seven that never were’

Westropp T. J. 192 -13 Dublin ‘Brasil and the legendary islands of the North Atlantic: their history and fable. A contribution to the ‘Atlantis’ problem,’

O’ hOgāin D.  16 – 19 June 1996 Dublin ‘The Mystical Island in Irish Folklore’, in Islanders and Water – Dwellers’: proceedings of the Celtic – Nordic – Baltic Folklore Symposium, U.C.D. [xx]

Intrigue you? As stated, the island it purported to be shrouded in mist except for one day every seventh year so incidentally next sighting may occur during 2020!!


[i] Hy – Brasil ( [assessed 14 May 2019]

[ii] Hy – Brasil – the Other Atlantis ( [assessed 13th May 2019]

[iii] An Island called Brazil ( [assessed 14th May 2019]

[iv] More Irish Families ( [assessed 15th May 2019]

[v] Hy- Brasil – the Other Atlantis ( [assessed 13th May 2019]

[vi] An Island called Brazil ( [assessed 15th May 2019]

[vii] Did Mythical Vanishing Island? ( ) [assessed 16th May 2019]

[viii] Hy – Brasil ( [assessed 15th May 2019]

[ix]  Hy – Brasil ( [assessed 15th May 2019]

[x]  The Isle of the Blest ( [assessed 15th May 2019]

[xi] Hy – Brasil – the Other Atlantis ( [assessed 16th May 2019]

[xii]  Did Mythical Vanishing Island?  ( ) [assessed 15th May 2019]

[xiii] The Island of Hy – Brasil ( ) [assessed 16th May 2019]

[xiv]  An Island called Brazil ( ) [assessed 16th  May 2019]

[xv]   Unexplained Phenomena of Hy – Brasil ( ) [assessed 14th May 2019]

[xvi]  Hy – Brasil – the Other Atlantis ( ) [assessed 16th May 2019]

[xvii]  Unexplained Phenomena of Hy – Brasil ( ) [assessed 14th May 2019]

[xviii] An Island called Brazil ( ) [assessed 15th  May 2019]

[xix] Hy -Brasil the Mysterious Phantom island ( [assessed 114th May 2019]

[xx] An Island called Brazil ( ) [assessed 16th  May 2019]

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