20 Jun 2016

27. San Borondón

The Canary Islands from West to East, or left to right if you are looking at a map, are El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. Some people add La Graciosa and Isla de Lobos, but these are really tiny. None of our modern maps, however, show the island of San Borondón. I don’t think this is because of military secrecy or anything like that, it’s just that every time some geographer establishes its exact coordinates it goes somewhere else. This has not always been so. Way back in the sixth century some intrepid sailors made the crossing to San Borondón. As was the habit in those days, on landing they stuck a cross and a flag in the sand and claimed the island for some king or other. The island didn’t like this and immediately submerged. The sailors just managed to get back to their boat before that too went under – they had tied it to some rocks – but for one unfortunate man who couldn’t swim. He was condemned forever to live on San Borondón, above or below water, and as soon as someone sets foot on the island he appears, chops off their head with a his cutlass and feeds their body to the fish.

A small boat for so many!
Saint Brendan on Jasconius, perhaps.
University of Augsburg, Germany 
The name, San Borondón, comes from Saint Brendan, an Irish priest. He, like another famous and earlier Irishman, Bran, mythical and most likely Celtic, set out from Ireland in about 520 A.D. to find the Blessed Isles with seventeen others in a currach made of wattle and leather. If, in fact, they did reach the Canary Islands, and many of us believe they did, the isle of the dog may well be Gran Canaria; the island of blacksmiths and the volcano sounds like Tenerife; the isle of sheep, El Hierro, and Jasconius perhaps the coming-and-going island later named in honour of the Saint.

In those times the ocean was crowded with huge sea creatures but we have hunted them to near extinction. Recently, monsters like those drawn on ancient maps have been washed up on our shores to the amazement of the press and the laboratories. A leviathan whale or a colossal squid could easily destroy a leather boat like Brendan’s. Those sailors believed. Even though the chances were they would not be coming home, they believed. And so do I. It’s necessary to believe even if it’s not rational. Perhaps you believe in Heaven or Asgarth, or that a road accident or a terrorist attack can’t happen to you, or that your husband will never find out. You may even believe in the boon of the EU. But we have to believe in things. I believe in San Borondón, in unicorns and in quite a few things you might scorn at.

Way out on the horizon you can see mountains rising above the cloud. I can swear there is no land there today
and there wasn't any yesterday. This is my last sighting of San Borondón, from my garden looking southeast
on 15th June 2016.


  1. Eddie & Barbro25 Jun 2016, 19:35:00

    Is San Borondon a myth like Shangrila or similar?

  2. Check your atlas. This photo was taken looking southeast from El Pinar.

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