Sigh. Captain Clumsy is making my life a misery… again. Recently, I installed a brand-new 'simple' navigation device – one I had invented myself – on his ship. And he clearly didn’t listen to my instructions when I briefed him on how to use it. This morning I had a call from him, and it was more of the usual...

“It’s broken,” he said. “Your new navigation… thingy. Its compass isn’t working properly – it’s all messed up.”

“What?!” I sighed, exasperated. “What have you done this time?”

“Nothing,” Captain Clumsy replied. “I… er… just got a bit lost, so I docked on the nearest island, not entirely sure where – there’s no other land around for maybe 25 kilometres or more…”

“Get to the point.”

“Indeed, well the compass is pointing all over the place – south is north, west is south, and north is west. It’s not entirely broken though – the red dot is labelled with my name, so that’s good…”

Frowning, I logged onto the system which allowed me to view his imaging remotely. Then I groaned – for once, he hadn't actually broken anything, but...

“You’re reading it all wrong – yes, the red dot does show your current location in the town where you’ve docked, but the label shows the town’s name, not yours – that's purely coincidence. As for this ‘broken compass’ – did you pay any attention to my demonstration at all?!”

Captain Clumsy is completely misreading the visuals – which island has he landed on? How can you tell? And what is the Captain's real first name?

enter image description here Island is represented here by a green circle for diagrammatic purposes only, and is not intended as an accurate representation of shape, size or colour.


The captain has landed on:

The Isle of Man

The navigation system:

provides the name of the nearest landmass in each given direction. With center on the southeast of the Isle of Man, the nearest landmass beyond the edges of the map in each direction are: North is Scotland
East is England
South is Wales
West is Northern Ireland

We can see this more clearly below:

The size of the map is an approximation, as I'm still learning to navigate with this darned system!

Captain Clumsy's real name is:

Douglas, which is also the town and capital of the Isle of Man on the south-east coast. The system may be a bit more lenient in returning capitals or the names of cities, or display cities and towns as normal and only the compass of the system has changed. Another option is the system returns the names of rivers and the point where it meets the ocean or sea (the river Douglas discharges into the Irish Sea in the town of Douglas).

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    $\begingroup$ Engineer's note: Well, I'm glad somebody was listening in orientation! You've managed to recall the general gist of my presentation, although it's more about rot13(gur arnerfg ynaqznff bss gur rqtr bs gur vantr engure guna fbirervta pbhagevrf (juvpu jbhyq nyy or HX)). Still, you've remembered enough to use the equipment correctly - we'll make a sailor of you yet! $\endgroup$ – Stiv Aug 9 at 8:28
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    $\begingroup$ OP's note: Well done for finding the answer! Don't get too bogged down in the technicalities of the software, this is more a puzzle based on recognising and resolving this wonderful quirky coincidence of geography. The captain's name (and distance from land) were mechanisms for verifying the answer - and you got it :) $\endgroup$ – Stiv Aug 9 at 8:31
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    $\begingroup$ To engineer: thanks for the manual, I've recalibrated my map and compass, should be better at navigating now! Think I'm ready to set sail. $\endgroup$ – MrSethward Aug 9 at 10:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Stiv Ah clear. I've seen the complexity of some of your other puzzles, so spent time trying to figure out the meaning of the italic words and finding any other hidden hints on how the software functioned ha! Such a lovely coincidence of geography. $\endgroup$ – MrSethward Aug 9 at 10:09
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    $\begingroup$ Ha! Yes, this one was much simpler than many of my others... Just something that entertained me. The checkmark is yours! $\endgroup$ – Stiv Aug 9 at 10:41

He has landed on

Null Island. This is the name of the point on the earth's surface at 0 latitude and 0 longitude, or "null, null". There are several interesting applications for this geolocation in the world of spatial/GIS analysis (you can read about them here). Geographically, this place is not a true island, but lies in the middle of the Atlantic ocean of the west coast of Africa. However, the location was added to Natural Earth in 2010 and described as a "1 meter square island". Use of the term "island" has also been popularised by the video game Myst. Consequently, the green dot represents the location of the island, and is not representatitive of shape, size or colour. And there is definitely no land around for at least 25 kilometres.

This would mean the captains real name is


Some further explanation on his action of "docking":

Although Null Island is not a physical island, it "is a hive of activity" and "one of the most visited places on Earth" (quote). Perhaps he pulled alongside anothe vessel (at least the verb "docking" for spacecraft includes joining to other spacecraft; not sure if this also applies to ships).

Two things I can't explain:

The town name. Perhaps the ship Captian Clumsy docked alongside had the name of a town, e.g. H.M.S. Edinburgh? And I have no explanation for the cardinal directions on the compass.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you explain what in the puzzle suggests to you that this is the answer? Other than "there's no land around for 25km or more", which applies to a lot of places, I don't see anything that seems to specifically suggest that this is right. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Aug 9 at 5:41
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    $\begingroup$ There is no place on earth where this situation would apply logically at all. So the answer isn’t, as I think you imply, a typical seaside town. The answer must be more obscure, mysterious. This answer seems to fit that. Also, the footnote under the image indicates the island may be nothing like the one shown. Again, this checks. I doubt it’s right, but is it not worth guessing? $\endgroup$ – Earlien Aug 9 at 5:48
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    $\begingroup$ Just "a place that is mysterious" doesn't seem to be enough to indicate this in particular, at least to me. It seems to me that must be a reason that the specific compass image was given, and that the "town" was described -- there would be no point in having all of these details if the only thing we were supposed to get out of it was "mysterious". I think there should be something in the puzzle identifying the answer in particular, rather than just "name a mysterious place that does not look like the given image". $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Aug 9 at 6:00
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    $\begingroup$ If you have a better suggestion, you are welcome to post an answer yourself. $\endgroup$ – Earlien Aug 9 at 6:05
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for engaging Earlien, but this is not the answer. I'm specifically looking for an explanation of the 'mixed up' compass points and the captain's real name (which is a real name)... $\endgroup$ – Stiv Aug 9 at 7:03

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