One of the most popular legends of the Canary Islands tells how an eighth island appears and disappears near El Hierro, and can be seen between the sea of clouds from Tenerife, La Palma, El Hierro, and La Gomera.
This island, which has been known since antiquity, has been one of the great mysteries of navigation given the countless testimonies related to it. There have been official expeditions to find it and it has even been part of political treaties to own its sovereignty. This is the elusive and mysterious island of San Borondón.
The origin of this oneiric island dates back to a maritime expedition carried out in 516 AD by the Irish monk Saint Brendan, protagonist of one of the most famous legends of the Celtic culture: the journey of Saint Brendano or Brandano to the Promised Land of the Blessed, the islands of Happiness and Fortune, or what is the same, the Fortunate Islands.
According to this mythological story, the monk crossed the Atlantic along with 17 other religious in a fragile boat until one day they found an island, full of trees and other vegetation, in which they decided to disembark. Upon their arrival, they decided to celebrate Mass after taking land and, at that precise moment, the ground began to tremble.
The island, which seemed to have a life of its own, began to move. The legend relates that, instead of an islet, the monks were on the back of a gigantic marine creature. After circumventing innumerable dangers, Brendan managed to return to Ireland. Later, some authors affirmed the theory by which the monk, really, had sailed towards the coasts of North America.
However, the construction of the legend of San Borondón would begin to feed after the Conquest. Numerous expeditions were made by Spaniards and Portuguese, from the fifteenth century, to find this mythical island.
The superstitious mentality was so influential that it was capable of contaminating the scientific character that cartography should have and, through this influence, even came to figure in geopolitical decisions.
In 1479, Spain and Portugal reached a diplomatic agreement in the Treaty of Alcazovas-Toledo, where both powers divided the territories of the Atlantic Ocean. In that firm was recognized for the first time, the sovereignty of the Canary Islands by the Crown of Castile. In said recognition, San Borondón was included.
Leonardo Torriani, an engineer at the service of Felipe II, went on to describe its dimensions and its location at the end of the 16th century based on the stories of the sailors who claimed to have visited it. This would be located west of the archipelago, 550 kilometers west-northwest of El Hierro, and 220 kilometers west-southwest of La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro.
One of the most famous sightings was made by photographer Manuel Rodríguez Quintero in 1957 when he captured the diffuse silhouette of San Borondón from the neighborhood of Las Martelas in the Llanos de Aridane. The phenomenon was witnessed by numerous residents of Los Llanos and Tazacorte. The image was published in the ABC in an article entitled The wandering island of San Borondón is photographed for the first time.
It is not registered in any current map, nor in any satellite photograph. Although there are different theories, science would show that it is nothing more than a simple mirage of the most western islands, especially La Palma. The difference in temperature between the layers of air causes the incident light to be reflected, creating the illusion to those who look at it, to see a series of distant landscapes whose position does not correspond to reality.
Despite this, San Borondón continues to be a constant presence in popular Canarian folklore, and surely there is no islander from Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera or El Hierro that has not set its sights on the horizon, from the peaks of its own island, in search of the lost island of San Borondón.