The Straight Dope: Could the floating islands of "Life of Pi" really exist?

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** Could the floating islands of "Life of Pi" really exist? **

June 1, 2007

Dear Cecil:

In /Life of Pi/, Yann Martel describes a floating island of vegetation with
its own ecosystem that could be boarded and had animals living on it out in
the middle of the ocean. It seems far-fetched, but does anything like this
exist?

— Tim M., UK

Not to deprecate the novelist's art, Tim, but /Life of Pi/ also speaks of
carnivorous islands whose trees bear fruit containing human teeth. Mini
terrestrial ecosystems adrift in midocean are likewise too cool to be real.
However, floating islands of more modest scope do exist, typically in
freshwater where there's less wave and tidal action.

One example is the peat batteries of the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and
Florida. These form when large masses of peat lying on the floor of the
swamp accumulate enough methane and


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are there islands like in life of pi

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