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Sulfur, snakes and nuclear fallout: Five deadly islands


Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, September 2, 2014, 8:34 AM -

When we put together our weekend feature on five weird abandoned cities, one entry in particular got a lot of attention.

Hashima Island, used as a location in the last James Bond film, is a tiny place with massive buildings, once one of the most densely populated places on Earth until it was totally abandoned by its workers.

We looked around, and there are plenty of other places, peopled or empty, that tickle the fancy, or stoke your nightmares. Here are the five most horrible.

Ilha da Queimada Grande is Indiana Jones' worst nightmare

Like snakes? Great! You should totally go to Brazil’s Ilha de Queimada Grande.

Actually, wait: You can’t. Without a special permit, the government won’t let you land. On account of the fact you can’t set foot on the island without treading on, like, three or four incredibly venomous snakes per step.

Photo: Prefeitura Municipal de Itanhaém

Photo: Prefeitura Municipal de Itanhaém

[Image Source]

The island is home to the golden lancehead viper, one of the most venomous snakes on Earth, with a bite that can burn through flesh until the victim bleeds to death.

And that one island is the only place where it’s found. Smithsonian Magazine says the theory is that their ancestors were trapped on the island when sea levels rose thousands of years ago, isolating them and setting them on a different evolutionary path.

There are no prospective ground-level meals for the snakes (for, um, obvious reasons), so they prey on birds.

The place is so dangerous, the only inhabitants until the 1920s were a lighthouse keeper and his family. After the inevitable happened (ie: They were all killed by snakes) the Brazilian Navy automated the lighthouse. They, and a handful of authorized scientists, are the only ones to

disturb this horrible snake empire.

Despite their isolation, the 2,000 to 4,000 snakes that live on the island are in danger of extinction, thanks to habitat destruction by the navy, fires, and illness. As well, the ultra-rare snakes are highly prized by underworld collectors, and a single one can fetch up to $30,000, according to ABC news.


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Poveglia holds the bones of thousands of plague victims and mental patients

Not far from the tourist fantasy land of Venice is a nightmare kingdom of death and suffering.

Poveglia Island, nestled in the same lagoon that houses Venice, has had many roles over the centuries, but the ones that made it infamous were as a plague-victim dumping ground and repository for the mentally ill.

As a quarantine zone for visitors to Venice, this great article in Mental Floss doesn't make it sound too bad - at least until the big plague of the 16th Century.

Unknown numbers of victims were dumped on the island - a policy some would argue worked, as Venice's death rate, around a third of the population, was apparently less than the average elsewhere in Italy.

It served as a defensive battlement for the Venetian Republic, guarding first against the mercantile giant's Genovese rivals, then later against the forces of Napoleon, before assuming its final role as a mental asylum.

That led to even more horror until the site was abandoned in the 1960s. Between plague victims and people who suffered in the asylum, as many as 160,000 people may be buried on the island.

It was bought out by an Italian businessman for around 500,000 euros earlier this year, but it wasn't forgotten before that. Because of its awful history, the place is popular among ghost hunters.

The North Sentinel Islanders kill outsiders on sight

Aside from the subcontinent, India owns a number of small islands in the seas between it and Thailand, and one of their more troublesome possessions would be North Sentinel Island.

It's not a big place, but it is inhabited, by people who are one of the last uncontacted stone age tribes on Earth, migrating there from Africa an estimated 60,000 years ago.

We're sure their ways and culture would be very interesting, if only there were a way to ask them about it without being peppered with arrows, like this film crew in an unknown documentary.

See, the North Sentinelese have a very simple policy about visitors, which seems to be 'kill on sight,' or try to, anyways. It seems to have worked. The Indian government now protects the region from outsiders.

Still, some folks either didn't get the memo, or simply got lost, like a pair of fishermen in 2006, who drifted ashore and were swiftly killed.

That report, from the Telegraph, says the Indians sent a helicopter to retrieve the bodies, but the hail of arrows that greeted them discouraged a landing.

Incidentally, that same report notes the incident revealed an important insight into the islanders customs: The helicopter downdraft exposed the fishermen's bodies buried in shallow graves, rather than eaten, so at least we know they likely aren't cannibals.

They're also either extremely lucky or really good at predicting tsunamis. The 2006 incident was proof the islanders survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that swept the region.

Image: NASA

Image: NASA

We don't know how many succumbed, but enough survived to threaten that helicopter, and the Telegraph says their total numbers could be anywhere between 50 and 200.

However, the European Space Agency says the monster wave damaged nearby fisheries, so the islanders may be in more dire straits than we think.

NEXT PAGE: A shark-infested nuclear zone


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