Island hopping around the world is fun, relaxing and rewarding. That is, unless you hop onto one of these.
Ilha de Queimada Grande, Brazil
I’m not going to do a countdown until we get to the worst; I’ll just put the worst first and we’ll work our way down from there. Snake Island as this one is also called is, to me, just about the scariest place on earth. That’s because, just like Indiana Jones, I am deathly afraid of snakes.
It is said to harbor more than 5 snakes per square meter, but these aren’t just any snakes: they are a pit viper snake called Golden Lanceheads. They not only are said to have just about the deadliest venom on earth, but the little (a few inches up to 46 inches) jerks will jump right at you. Visitors are forbidden here by order of the Brazilian Navy and in this case at least, I would advise following orders.
It’s the history of the place that keeps it deserted, though there are other factors as well. It may because the wind blows in every direction, there are only a few coconut trees on the whole island for vegetation, or the fact that sharks surround the place but trust me, it’s the history. Located about a 1000 kilometers off the southeast coast of Mexico in the Pacific, Clipperton Island was named for a pirate, but also at one time or another has been claimed by the French, United States, United Kingdom, and Mexico.
No one really seems to want anything to do with it. At one time the inhabitants on the island were dependent on shipments from the continent to survive; it seems one or two coconut trees don’t provide much sustenance. Once shipments ended during the Mexican Civil War, the people started dying off and the last surviving man, Victorianno Alvarez took it upon himself to commit unspeakable atrocities to the remaining women and children until the last few women killed him. The surviving women and children were later rescued, but the island seems to have lost what little luster it had (really?) and has remained uninhabited since.
Izu Islands, Japan
Volcanic eruptions have destroyed many an island, but here at the Izu Islands what hasn’t been destroyed maybe should have been. The islands were evacuated several times in 1953 and again recently in 2000 due to volcanic eruptions. The residents were allowed back in 2005 although there have been 6 eruptions in the last century. Nowadays they are not as worried about lava or eruptions as they are concerned about concentrations of sulfur gas from the volcanos.
Imagine living somewhere where you have to always carry a gas mask. That’s right, the inhabitants have been required to carry these masks for the last ten years and there is a siren that will wake you up (hopefully) if the concentrations of sulfur get too high to sustain life. Oh just one more thing, the island is located in the middle of three tectonic plates and an expected earthquake is about ten years overdue.
Gruinard Island, Scotland
Well if nature has you afraid, don’t forget man can create a mess all by himself. Gruinard Island is only 1.1 kilometers off the northwest shore of Scotland, but that didn’t prevent the British military from making an ecological disaster of the place. During World War II, the British started testing the dangers of Anthrax on the island. They detonated bombs on the resident sheep on the island and unsurprisingly enough, they all died.
Years later the Anthrax spores, unlike the hapless sheep, survived and thrived. In their infinite wisdom the government, sometime in the 1990s, fertilized the island with 280 tons of formaldehyde thinking this would neutralize things. Well, they claim it has and the island is open for business. I don’t know about you but, since inhaling Anthrax is fatal in humans just about 95% of the time, I think we’ll just skip this stop.
North Sentinel Island, Bay of Bengal, India
If snakes and chemicals don’t scare you, then maybe other humans will. Though this island is surrounded by spectacularly clear sapphire water, coral reefs, and white powdery beaches, there are no all-inclusive resorts or dive shops around here. North Sentinel is about the the size of Manhattan and is the home of one of the least welcoming tribes of people on the planet.
The Sentinelese tribe is one of the most remote and least welcoming people around and has resisted and rejected all contact with foreigners. Most people who have tried to contact the estimated 50-400 tribe members have been killed. In 2006 the tribe murdered two fishermen who had illegally approached the island and the helicopter that tried to recover their bodies was hailed with arrows. A 3-mile zone has been established around the island barring visitors; and just like at Ilha de Queimada Grande, I would advise following orders.