I'm looking for the name of a short story (probably from the 2000s) set in a world where the Pacific ocean appears to be impossible to cross (all who attempt to do so disappear). History seems to be pretty much identical to ours up until WWII, where Pearl Harbour could not happen (IIRC, Hawaii does not exist) and Germany was not defeated, either because the USA stayed neutral or because the Soviet Union had to fight Japan

The story's main plot concerns a research expedition conducted by Germany and the UK or the USA which uses an airship to explore this impassable ocean.

  • I don't have time to find it, but I'm thinking that I read this in an issue of Asimov's SF. As they travel across the ocean they begin finding more and more primitive islands (cavemen, dinosaurs, etc), if I am thinking of the same story. The story was written in the form of a log. Dec 18, 2014 at 14:50
  • @JasonPatterson - Given that it was in the "mammoth book of extreme SF" and "Year's Best Sci-fi #24", I'd imagine that it's one of the best-read scifi stories of the past decade. I'm surprised others didn't answer it.
    – Valorum
    Dec 18, 2014 at 16:56

1 Answer 1


This is "The Pacific Mystery" by Stephen Baxter, First published in "The Mammoth Book of Extreme SF" edited by Mike Ashley. The story also appeared in "The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty Fourth Annual Collection" edited by Gardner Dozois.

All this happened, you see, because the Japanese had not been able to pose a threat to the Americans. If not for the impassibility of the Pacific, America’s attentions might have been drawn to the west, not the east. And without the powerful support we enjoyed from America, if Hitler hadn’t been moved to offer such a generous peace in 1940—if Hitler had dared attack Britain—the Germans would have found themselves fighting on two fronts, west and east.

Could Russia have survived an attenuated Nazi assault? Is it even conceivable that Russia and Britain and America could have worked as allies against the Nazis, even against the Japanese? Would the war eventually have been won?


It is three days since we left behind the eastern coast of Asia. Over sea, unimpeded by resupplying or bomb-dropping, we make a steady airspeed of 220 knots. In the last forty-eight hours alone we should have covered twelve thousand miles.

We should already have crossed the ocean. We should already be flying over the Americas. When I take astronomical sightings, it is as if we have simply flown around a perfectly behaved spherical earth from which America has been deleted. The geometry of the sky doesn’t fit the geometry of the earth.


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