From The Economist China has co-opted a cartographic mistake to bully its neighbours
Chart the course of Chinese coastguard ships in the South China Sea and a pattern emerges. The boats’ patrols often follow a U-shaped route that stretches over 700 nautical miles from China’s coastline, encircling most of a sea that plays an outsize role in global trade and security. This path is the “nine-dash line”. China claims everything inside it as its own, ignoring protests from neighbouring countries. Last year its coastguard spent longer patrolling key reefs along the line than ever before. China’s assertiveness in enforcing this claim is perhaps the biggest obstacle to calming tensions in the South China Sea.
"Location Map of South Sea Islands" (南海諸島位置圖) circa 1947
How did this line become so important?
The nine-dash line is partly the result of a cartographic mistake. Chinese officials had little interest in, or knowledge of, the South China Sea before the 20th century. But after a series of humiliations at the hands of imperialist powers, map-making became a way to reclaim national pride, at least on paper. In 1933 Chiang Kai-Shek’s nationalist government created a committee to give Chinese names to islands in the South China Sea. The committee copied names from Western maps into Chinese, mistranslating the James Shoal, an underwater bank far from China, as “Zengmu tan”. “Tan” means a sandbank above water.
When Bai Meichu, a private geographer and teacher inspired by the flurry of nationalistic cartography, drew a map with the first U-shaped line, he curved it around the James Shoal. Two of Bai’s students were later hired by the nationalist Kuomintang (kmt) government and, in 1946, appear to have helped draw the first official map containing the line. By 1948, a year before the kmt lost power in a civil war, the government began to officially assert the legitimacy of the line—and implicitly claim everything within it. Officials were documenting new maritime ambitions rather than any historical claim, says Bill Hayton, author of “The South China Sea”.
When the Communists took over in 1949, they retained the nine-dash line and began to build a mythology around it. In the 1990s China’s government started to say that it had “historic rights” over everything inside the dashes, on the basis of absurd claims that it was first to discover islands within the line. It has never clarified whether that refers just to territory, or to the fish, oil and water, too. The vagueness suits China, because its maximalist position allows it to strong-arm its neighbours over issues such as exploration rights in the South China Sea.
China’s claims have no basis in modern maritime law, which is governed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (unclos), a treaty agreed in 1982 and ratified by 168 countries, including China. Coastal countries are entitled to 12 nautical miles of territorial sea, where they have sovereignty. They also get exclusive rights to drilling, fishing and mining—but only up to 200 nautical miles from their coast (see map). In 2013 the Philippines challenged China at an international tribunal, which ruled that China’s claims based on the nine-dash line were unlawful. China rejects the ruling. It argues that its traditional maritime claims trump the unclosprinciples.
China has considerably expanded its navy and coastguard in the decades since the line was sketched out, and now acts as a maritime bully within it. Around an eighth of the world’s fish are caught in the South China Sea and it contains untapped oil and gas reserves. Chinese aggression curtails neighbouring countries’ legal attempts to extract these resources. Its vessels harass fishing boats and disrupt oil-and-gas drilling carried out by Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.
China is unlikely to change its stance. Xi Jinping, China’s president, has promised to recover lost territory and with it the country’s place in the world. In 2013 China added a tenth dash, to emphasise that Taiwan falls within the line. As long as China continues to flout international law, talks to resolve disputes in the South China Sea are unlikely to succeed, says Ian Storey of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, a think-tank. Tension will continue to bubble in one of the world’s most hotly disputed regions.
Underneath thousands of feet of Thwaites Glacier’s solid ice, a bot filmed peculiar features, where melting is much faster. It’s an ominous sign for rising sea levels.
ICEFIN THE ROBOT is designed to go where no human can, swimming off the coast of Antarctica under 2,000 feet of ice. Lowered through a borehole drilled with hot water, the torpedo-shaped machine takes readings and—most strikingly—video of Thwaites Glacier’s vulnerable underbelly. This Florida-sized chunk of ice is also known as the Doomsday Glacier, and for good reason: It’s rapidly deteriorating, and if it collapses, global sea levels could rise over a foot. It could also tug on surrounding glaciers as it dies, which would add another 10 feet to rising seas.
In a pair of papers published today in the journal Nature, scientists describe what Icefin and other instruments have discovered underneath all that ice. Simply put: trouble. Models of future sea-level rise characterize the bit of Thwaites that’s floating on the ocean—known as an ice shelf—as having a fairly simple, flat underside, but the robot found that 10 percent of it is way more complex. There are terraces, for instance, of vertical walls over 30 feet high where melting is happening much faster than in flat areas. That small portion is “contributing 25 percent of the melting that we see,” says Britney Schmidt, an Earth and planetary scientist at Cornell University, who leads the Icefin project. (She’s the lead author of one of the papers and coauthor on the other.) “So it's a really outsized impact.”
Hot-water drilling of the borehole in Antarctica
PHOTOGRAPH: PETER DAVIS/BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY
As those features melt, they may be sending shocks through the system. “What we know about Thwaites is that it's falling apart,” says Schmidt. “We've been looking at it for the last 30 years, watching rifts and crevasses propagating across the system and destabilizing the whole ice shelf. And what we're showing here is the way that the ocean kind of works into these weak spots, and in a sense makes it worse.”
To deploy Icefin and other instruments, Schmidt and her colleagues drilled down near the glacier’s grounding line, the point where the ice lifts off the Antarctic land mass and starts floating on the sea. Thwaites’ risk of melting isn’t due to rising atmospheric temperatures above, but from rising ocean temperatures below. Its grounding line has retreated 10 miles inland since the late 1990s, which means that now more of the glacier’s ice is making contact with warm saltwater. A phenomenon known as tidal pumping is not helping: The ice heaves up when the tide comes in, allowing yet more water to rush underneath.
PHOTOGRAPH: PETER DAVIS/BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY
Scientists have good estimates of where the retreating grounding line is, thanks to satellites watching for tiny changes in the ice’s elevation. But they haven’t had a good picture of what the glacier’s belly looks like at the grounding line, because it’s under thousands of feet of ice. “These data are really exciting because we're getting a look into a hidden system,” says University of Waterloo glaciologist Christine Dow, who studies Antarctic glaciers but wasn’t involved in the research.
Icefin at Thwaites Glacier Antarctica
1. Video from Icefin forward cameras of crevasses and terraces under Thwaites Glacier described in Schmidt et al 2023, Nature 614:7948 Credits: Icefin/ITGC/Schmidt/Washam
2. Supplemental video from Schmidt et al 2023, Nature 614:7948 showing melting basal ice, terraces, and the grounding line of Thwaites Glacier. Credit: Schmidt et al 2023, Nature 614:7948
3. Video of pulling Icefin back up to the surface through the borehole at Thwaites Glacier. The borehole was drilled by the British Antarctic Survey team led by Paul Anker and Keith Nicholls.
With Icefin, the researchers could remotely pilot a camera while measuring the salinity, temperature, and oxygen content of the water.
“We saw that the ice base itself was very complex in its topography, so there's lots of staircases, terraces, rifts, and crevasses,” says British Antarctic Survey physical oceanographer Peter Davis, the lead author of one of the papers and coauthor on the other. “The rate of melting on different surfaces was very different.”
Where the glacier’s underside (or basal ice, in the scientific parlance) is smoother, melting is definitely happening, but at a much slower rate than where the topography is jagged. That’s because a layer of cold water rests where the ice is flat, insulating it from warmer ocean water like a liquid blanket. But where the topography is sloped and irregular, there are more vertical surfaces where warm water can attack the ice, including making incursions from the side. This melting creates a peculiar “scalloped” look, like the surface of a golf ball.
These complex, expanding basal features could then influence the rest of the ice. “If you open up features underneath the ice, you also get similar reflections of them on the surface, because of the way that the ice is floating,” says Davis. “So there's a fear that if you're widening these rifts and crevices under the ice, you can destabilize the ice shelf, which could lead to greater disintegration over time.”
If you’re feeling relieved that the flatter bits of basal ice are insulated against melting to a certain degree—don’t be. “It sounds like what we're saying is that there's less melting than there was before, and that's not true,” says Schmidt. Instead, they’re showing that the dramatic deterioration of Thwaites has been happening under conditions that are milder than models previously estimated. “That's important,” she continues. “That means that it takes less to get this degree of change.”
Put another way: Thwaites’ underside may be much more sensitive than previously believed. “What it shows us is that it's easier, perhaps, to knock these systems out of equilibrium in the first place,” says Davis. “In the past, we have associated rapid retreat with rapid melting. And I think what the results are showing us is that you don't need rapid melting to drive retreat. What you do need, though, is a change in melting. So you need something to shift the system away from a balance.”
That’s especially troubling because it means that the retreat of the grounding line can’t be explained by sky-high rates of basal melt, says Alexander Robel, head of the Ice and Climate Group at Georgia Tech, who wasn’t involved in the new papers. And other factors could set off further melt. “If ocean temperature or ocean circulation were to change in the future,” says Robel, “we could potentially get even higher basal melt rates that would produce even faster grounding line retreat rates.”
Better understanding how Thwaites is crumbling is critical for projecting how quickly it’ll add to sea-level rise. Typically, forecasts are based on simplified models that represent the underside of ice sheets as flat or sloped—partly because instruments like Icefin are only just beginning to map them in detail, partly because of the computing power needed to parse such complexity over vast areas.
But the complex features that Icefin has discovered could be essential for modeling the glacier in much finer detail. “This is such a key region for Antarctic stability,” says Dow. “Any data we're getting from there is going to be hugely valuable for trying to figure out what that system will do in the future.”
The use of uncrewed surface vessels by Ukraine to inflict damage on the Russian navy has attracted widespread attention. But does it really herald a new era of naval warfare as some are suggesting?
In late 2022, Ukraine launched an audacious raid on the Russian Black Sea Fleet using a combination of UAVs and uncrewed surface vessels (USVs). The innovative use of USVs as ‘suicide craft’ was of particular note to many commentators, with some heralding the attack as the portent of a new era in warfare at sea. While this is understandable, the significance of the attack should be caveated, and the use of autonomous capabilities set within a wider context.
Though in some ways relatively primitive, the uncrewed capabilities used by Ukraine could presage a wider shift in the conduct of war at sea. The USVs, which appear to be equipped with electrooptical and infrared sensors as well as Starlink antennae, represent a relatively simple uncrewed capability, powered in part by commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology including a propulsion system from a recreational power jet. This is not the first time uncrewed explosive boats have been used effectively: the Houthis, for example, utilised remotely operated uncrewed boats in a 2017 attack on the Saudi frigate Al Madinah. Moving forward, uncrewed swarming capabilities could become more sophisticated. For example, the Chinese company Yunzhou Tech has conducted demonstrations of action against hostile targets by coordinated swarms of USVs that can designate targets and engage them autonomously. As likely advances in areas like lithography drive exponential increases in the processing power of semiconductors, increasingly sophisticated algorithms can be run on ever smaller platforms. It is not, then, entirely surprising that some commentators see swarms of smart uncrewed capabilities as being a central feature of the future battlefield, and raise serious concerns about the risks to expensive multi-mission platforms. But…
There are, however, grounds for caution regarding claims that a given technology has revolutionised warfare. When the history of innovation is written, ample attention is paid to cases of militaries moving too slowly to adapt to a given change, with examples including the slow adoption of carrier warfare by many navies including the Royal Navy during the interwar years. There are, however, cautionary examples of excessive radicalism unbalancing force structures. Take, for example, the experience of Admiral Theophlisse Aube, the French Minister of Marine from 1886–1887 and a key progenitor of the Jeune Ecole – a naval school that posited that developments in areas such as torpedo boats and submarines had rendered large surface vessels obsolescent. Rather than driving revolutionary change, the reforms carried out under Aube left France with what one commentator called a ‘fleet of experiments’. The issue was not that any of the major propositions made by the Jeune Ecole were fundamentally wrong. Torpedo boats and submarines did change the face of naval warfare. However, the school overstated the impact of technological change and underestimated both the limitations of platforms such as torpedo boats (especially in terms of endurance) and the ways in which countermeasures could be developed to mitigate the risks posed by small platforms. Torpedo nets, rapid firing guns and smokeless gunpowder (which removed the tactical cover used by torpedo boats) all made swarming vessels with smaller craft more complicated. Similarly, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) tactics involving a mixture of air, surface and subsurface capabilities would develop over the course of the two world wars and beyond, limiting the effectiveness of submarines. This is not to say that these capabilities were not useful. Torpedo boats enabled daring raids into well-defended ports such as Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War, but the war was ultimately won at Tsushima in a conventional naval battle. Submarines had a critical role in the US’s economic strangulation of Japan during the Second World War, but in this capacity they augmented the role of fleet engagements conducted with surface vessels by making Japan’s military losses harder to replace. Moreover, the advantages of new systems over large surface vessels were situational rather than absolute. They could be useful vectors of attack in certain contexts, but highly vulnerable in others. Rather than revolutionising warfare at sea, they became part of an evolving mix of tactical assets.
Closer to our own time, we might consider the impact of the anti-ship missile. Since the sinking of the Israeli vessel Eilat by a Soviet Styx missile In 1966, missiles have posed an ever-growing threat to surface vessels. However, methods of defence saw a parallel evolution. Carrier-borne aircraft such as the F-14 were equipped with the long-range AIM-54 Phoenix to intercept bombers like the Tu-22 at long ranges, and battle management systems such as Aegis were developed to defend against missiles that leaked through the screen of aircraft. More recently, soft kill countermeasures such as the Nulka digital radio frequency memory system have demonstrated their utility against anti-ship cruise missiles in the Bab Al Mandeb. Moreover, long-range missiles in certain respects increased the utility of surface combatants by allowing them to contribute to land attack missions. To be sure, the arms race between attacker and defender is far from over, with faster missiles including hypersonics and new millimetric wave and dual mode seekers posing challenges for hard and soft kill defences. This dynamic further illustrates how, while new technology can have relative utility in certain times and circumstances, it is a rarity for new technology to render existing force structures completely obsolete.
Today, countermeasures to USVs and uncrewed underwater vehicles could potentially include directed energy weapons, surface warfare packages developed to cope with manned swarms of small boats, and the defensive use of USVs as surface and ASW escorts. In a similar vein to the past, these countermeasures will not provide absolute protection. USVs may prove highly lethal against certain types of targets – particularly vessels that are in port or operating at a maritime chokepoint. Similarly, they will probably have the advantage of surprise when they can hide in the midst of maritime traffic. However, in many other instances, alert surface vessels may be well-equipped to deal with swarms, especially when they are operating in the distant ‘blue water’ where the limited endurance and fields of view of uncrewed assets may hobble them. Climatic conditions are likely to be a major limiting factor, with certain environments limiting the utility of smaller uncrewed assets.
Uncrewed capabilities utilised in swarms can reinforce the substantial threat to large vessels in chokepoints and littoral waters, especially if coordinated with other vectors of attack such as missiles
This is not to say that uncrewed assets will not have a substantial impact on the battlefield – merely that this impact will reinforce dynamics that are driven by a range of tools. Moreover, as navies seek to leverage uncrewed assets, they would be well advised to begin with the dynamics that they are trying to shape in mind, rather than building concepts of operations around the assumption that a fundamental change driven by a particular technology is afoot. Cases of successful innovation – from the carrier revolution of the 1920s to the late-Cold War AirLand Battle – have relied on clarity regarding the purposes that new technologies serve.
One can readily see uncrewed assets reinforcing a number of trends in maritime warfare. The uncrewed threat to ports will join the existing air and missile threat to create ever more requirements for force protection for vessels in port. While key ports can be protected with a combination of layered defences both at air and at sea, doing so across multiple sea ports of debarkation (SPODs) will likely be difficult. One can envision a fresh iteration of debates held during the interwar years regarding the relative utility of maintaining well-defended SPODs close to a theatre of combat, versus maintaining a greater capacity for at-sea replenishment in order to mitigate reliance on local ports during the early stages of a conflict.
Similarly, uncrewed capabilities utilised in swarms can reinforce the substantial threat to large vessels in chokepoints and littoral waters, especially if coordinated with other vectors of attack such as missiles. One solution to this might be to increase the range and reach of the fleet, much as the US Navy did in the 1980s. Equally, uncrewed assets operating as decoys or as escorts to surface vessels might provide as many solutions to the challenges faced by blue water vessels in littoral operations as they do problems. For example, uncrewed vessels equipped with emitters can draw fire from coastal missile batteries, revealing their positions to naval vessels which can engage the batteries. In other areas such as ASW, it has been proposed that uncrewed assets could be used to reduce the capacity and operating costs of manning barriers and, further, to enable more aggressive ASW tactics within protected bastions.
Two factors stand out, however. Firstly, the transformative impact of uncrewed maritime assets is uneven. In the littoral or against SPODs, for example, they largely add a new threat vector to spaces that are already heavily contested. To be sure, a new threat vector changes things at the tactical level, but it does not necessarily presage a transformation. In ASW, by contrast, if assets with long endurance that are (relatively) expendable can enable forward defence against cruise missile-equipped submarines in well-protected maritime bastions, uncrewed assets could meaningfully transform concepts of operations rather than just tactics. Secondly, in each instance, the question that might be asked is whether uncrewed capabilities are the only or even the best answer to a particular tactical or operational challenge. For example, in the context of ASW, if the goal is merely chokepoint defence – as has traditionally been the case – then it is not clear that uncrewed assets necessarily add more value than the purchase of additional manned vessels or maritime patrol aircraft, or better networking between assets. By contrast, if they enable a new concept of operations involving forward defence, there is much more of a case for them. The transformative potential of uncrewed platforms depends on identifying operational problems which they are uniquely well-suited to resolving. In other cases, they may make a useful tool to augment other capabilities, as with UAVs and missiles. There will also be cases where transformative ideas are decidedly less useful than maintaining traditional forces and building additional capacity within them. Beyond Technology
There is a second problem with viewing the emergence of uncrewed assets as the driving factor behind a wider change in the character of war at sea – namely that a narrowly technology-centric view conflates symptoms and causes. The most salient characteristics of capabilities such as USVs – their relatively low cost and use of commercial technology – are mirrored elsewhere in the maritime domain. Such capabilities are in reality a symptom of a wider shift – namely the search for additional mass among the world’s navies, many of which are shrinking.
Uncrewed capabilities represent one vector among many in which navies are generating cheap mass
One of the major risks posed by theories of change in a military context is that promises of ever greater effectiveness delivered by revolutionary change can allow military organisations to paper over gaps between their commitments and capabilities. This tends to be a driver of pathological innovation – a historical tendency in which the promised technological change is used to obscure real challenges regarding resourcing.
This is not to say that autonomy provides no solutions. Uncrewed systems such as the Ukrainian USVs, which relied entirely on commercial systems from their propulsion units to their Starlink antennae, represent a way of enhancing lethality on the cheap, as indeed do expendable aerial munitions like Russia’s Iranian-made UAVs, which also use COTS technology. There exists a real potential for militaries to draw more heavily on commercial capability to generate options. Just as figures like the US Navy’s Vice Admiral Jerry Tuttle drove a substantial reduction in software costs through the adoption of COTS capabilities in the 1990s, a similar shift might be afoot in military hardware, with forces padding out their lethality on the cheap. Moreover, more expensive uncrewed capabilities might genuinely reduce capacity requirements in certain areas, but in others, still experimental work on uncrewed assets may be seen as a means of avoiding immediate concerns regarding a lack of manned capability.
Moreover, it would be a mistake to assume that efforts to leverage cheap mass are restricted to uncrewed assets. Auxiliaries, in particular, are playing an increasingly critical role in augmenting the mass of surface fleets. For example, China has legislated that flagged ferries be built to military specifications, enabling them to be used as auxiliaries in an amphibious assault. Similarly, there is evidence of the People’s Liberation Army Navy training fishermen to operate as sentries, using satellite phones to communicate with military units. The containerisation of missiles like the Russian Klub or the Chinese YJ-18 also opens pathways for auxiliary vessels to be used in military functions. China maintains a maritime militia that operates a significant number of vessels, the largest of which – at 750 tons displacement – are comparable to corvettes and could carry containerised missiles (though they have not been used in this capacity). Furthermore, such vessels are numerous enough to provide a persistent harassing presence in the ‘grey zone’. Finally, navies such as Iran’s have long utilised cheap asymmetrical tools such as small missile-equipped boats in large numbers.
Ultimately, uncrewed capabilities represent one vector among many in which navies are generating cheap mass. This makes sense as mass – to a much greater extent than technology – has been a historical predictor of success in naval warfare, and efforts to shift from forces built around a small number of exquisite capabilities to larger maritime force structures are understandable. Such efforts, which leverage commercial capabilities and in some cases personnel, also bridge some of the bifurcation between countries’ commercial maritime sectors and their military force structures.
Uncrewed capabilities are an important part of this reversion to form, but they are not the whole story. Efforts to develop them ought to be seen as part of a wider programme to generate mass at sea alongside leveraging auxiliary assets, reservists and the civilian shipbuilding sector.
The number of listed Japanese islands is expected to more than double from 6,852 to 14,125 after the government recounted them for the first time in 35 years, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The huge increase resulting from improved accuracy with the digitalization of maps is unlikely to change the size of Japanese territory or territorial waters, the source told Kyodo News on Monday.
The government is expected to release the new figure as early as March, although the number could change as the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, or GSI, is making final adjustments, the source said.
File photo shows a collection of islands in the Seto Inland Sea in an image taken from Takehara, Hiroshima Prefecture. (Kyodo)
Moves to reassess the number of listed islands came amid criticism that data was old and the true figure could be vastly different.
The new figure could affect entries in educational and other materials.
The government has been using the figure released in 1987 by the Japan Coast Guard.
At the time, the coast guard listed by hand islands with a circumference of 100 meters or greater shown on a map of Japan. Islands in lakes or river sandbanks were not included in the total.
The Japanose government is expected to release the new island count in March, as the GSI is still making final adjustments to the exact island count.
In the latest survey, the government counted islands automatically using a computer based on GSI's electronic land map in 2022 and cross-referenced the map with past aerial photographs and other data in order to exclude artificially reclaimed land. While the computer detected over 100,000 islands, only those with circumferences of 100 meters or greater were selected for the official list. The total size of national territory is calculated using the same digital map irrespective of listed islands, while the extent of territorial waters will not be affected as remote Japanese islands are subject to a separate survey.
Nagasaki and Kagoshima prefectures in southwestern Japan had 1,479 and 1,256 islands, respectively, while 1,473 were listed in Hokkaido, northern Japan.
The recount came after a ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker told a parliamentary session in December 2021 that "an accurate understanding of the number of islands is an important administrative matter that is related to the national interest."
Islands in the survey are defined in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that an island is a "naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide."
The Australian Government has released a new seabed map of the Bass Strait that shows the area in greater detail than ever before.
Geoscience Australia’s work involves mapping and characterising Australia’s seabed using its own data, along with data provided from its partners, to produce high-quality maps that are valuable across multiple sectors.
Visualization of Bass strait with the GeoGarage platform (AHS nautical raster chart)
Geoscience Australia brings these seabed maps together with other spatial information to inform decisions about the sustainable use of Australia’s marine jurisdiction.
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Madeleine King said anyone would be able to use the data – from industry, fisheries and Government organisations to researchers and environmental groups. “We’re seeing an increasing need for seabed data like this; with the way the marine estate is being used across a range of industries, it’s vital to have marine spatial information readily available and usable to support planning and investment decisions,” Minister King said. “It is important to have good seabed maps to help identify sites for potential offshore renewable energy projects. “Offshore renewable energy is an emerging industry with the potential to generate new jobs and new opportunities for Australia’s economy, while helping to reduce our carbon footprint. “Additionally, much of this information will help support the overall management and protection of the Bass Strait seabed and surrounding ocean.”
A 15,000 square kilometre area in the Bass Strait off Gippsland has already been declared the first suitable area for developing offshore wind energy projects, with estimates suggesting these projects could support more than 3,000 jobs over the next 15 years.
The Bass Strait maps are available free of charge through the AusSeabed marine data portal, along with other seabed maps and related datasets from around Australia and distributed as part of AusSeabed – a collaborative, national seabed mapping initiative led by Geoscience Australia.
There are many unexplored locations in the world which when discovered become exotic tourist spots. Visitors enjoy these locations much more than the famous ones as they give them an increased level of privacy and a totally new experience.
One such covert beach is the Playa del Amor of Mexico. The Playa del Amor is known as the “Hidden Beach” and it is situated on the Marieta Islands in Mexico.
Recently a video of the unique beach has gone viral on social media.
In a video shared on Twitter a drone shot of the island from far above can be seen.
While the edges are mostly elevated, a cavity in between with a small beach can be seen with a few people enjoying the beautiful blue waters.
Localization with the GeoGarage platform (SEMAR nautical raster chart)
To reach the Hidden Beach of Marieta Islands, you’ll have to hop on a boat and travel an hour northwest from Puerto Vallarta’s coast.
While one may think that Playa del Amor is quite difficult to find, it has in fact become really popular among the foreign tourists and the locals can get you there easily.
As soon as you reach the mouth of Banderas Bay at the base of the island, look for a sandy cavern with blue waves and white sand.
That is exactly your destination.
The history of the Marieta Islands is quite interesting.
They were military testing sites assigned by the Mexican government in the early 1900s.
It’s believed that the craters created by the explosion of bombs have given rise to such caverns.
The Marieta Islands was officially designated as a national park in 2005, Parque Nacional Islas Marietas, which prevented further military testing due to the harm caused to the marine life.
This is how Playa del Amor and several other spots on the islands became safely accessible to tourists and such hidden gems were discovered.
The best time to visit the Hidden Beach is from November to May. The weather is pleasant and people can enjoy their visit by indulging in activities such as water sports and whale watching.