The story of Gemma Sheridan, a British woman who reportedly was trapped on a desert island for seven years before a Google Earth image helped find her, has captivated the Internet. But is it real?
Posted on News-Hound.org, the story claims Sheridan left Liverpool, England, in 2007 with two friends to sail to Hawaii, but a storm in the Panama Canal damaged their boat and killed her friends while Sheridan drifted for 17 days before waking up on an island. According to the story, Gemma made an “SOS” sign on the beach that had been picked up by Google Earth, which led to her rescue.
According to the website, Gemma happened to wake up one day to hear a plane flying overhead and dropped a small package. A radio was inside, and a voice on the other end said, “Some kid from Minnesota found your SOS sign on Google Earth." It should be noted that the story has not appeared on any reliable news websites.
But as the conspiracy theory and rumor-debunking website Waffles at Noon noted Wednesday, the story is rife with indications that it is fake. According to Waffles at Noon, the Google Earth image of the purported deserted island “SOS” sign is actually a 2010 satellite photo from Kyrgyzstan. The picture appears in a story on Amnesty International’s blog.
The photo is not the only piece of evidence pointing to the Gemma Sheridan story as a hoax. Portions of text from the Sheridan story are taken verbatim from a Daily Mail article on Ed Stafford, an Amazon explorer who survived 60 days on a desert island in the Pacific.
Then there’s also the case of News-Hound.org itself. Although the website was first registered in January, according to Waffles at Noon, the website has been publishing articles that predate its existence. The Gemma Sheridan story isn’t the first time News-Hound.org has tried to pull a fast one on Internet uses. The site also tried to fool web users in January, when it “reported” that a planetary alignment that counteracted Earth’s gravity made everyone weightless for five minutes, according to About.com's Urban Legends.