Earth is the only known planet that is capable of providing a hospitable atmosphere for life to thrive. In this technological era where satellites and probes are sent millions of light years away to study our galaxies, we would think that our home planet is completely occupied. Unlike the olden days, today, we are capable of traveling by land, sea or air to reach places that were once considered to be uninhabitable. Although we have occupied most of the planet, there are still a handful of places where humans haven’t marked their footprints. Whether the reason for the place to become isolated was natural or artificial, they are left alone. Here, we bring you 10 such places that are still secluded in this modern world.
1. Big Major Cay, Bahamas
Just north of Staniel Cay in the Outer Exumas is Big Major Cay, an island that is controlled by none other than wild pigs on their own terms. Although it’s unclear as to how the pigs managed to reach the island, one legend says that they could have possibly survived a shipwreck by swimming to the shores of Big Major Cay. It is believed that there are at least 20 pigs inhabiting the island now. Tourists are known to venture towards the shores of the island, where the pigs will swim out and greet them. Today, the island holds the reputation as the “authentic” home of Pig Beach. (source)
2. Snake Island, Brazil
Ilha da Queimada is a Brazilian island that has the highest concentrations of venomous snakes in the world. Located almost 93 miles away from downtown São Paulo, the island is untouched by humans, since there is an estimated one to five snakes per square meter. To put things into perspective, a human visiting the island cannot move more than a foot without stepping on some of the most venomous species of snakes in the world. One of the species includes the golden lancehead, that can grow over half a meter long, and has a potent venom capable of taking down an adult man within a few hours.
The Brazilian Navy forbids anyone from stepping foot on the island, except for some scientists, who require special permissions and suits to study the species. According to local legends, the snakes were dumped by pirates who wanted to protect their valuables but the population spiraled out of control, making it completely uninhabitable. It is estimated that there are more than 4,000 snakes currently residing on this 110-acre island. The snakes have also evolved to hunt migratory birds, who land on the island to escape rain. (source)
3. Wittenoom, Australia
Today, Wittenoom is a ghost town, uninhabited by humans due to health hazard. During the 1940’s, however, the Colonial Sugar Refinery (CSR) commenced mining Blue Asbestos at Wittenoom Gorge, attracting people from all over Australia. More than 7,000 people worked at the mine while approximately 13,000 non-workers resided in the Wittenoom township. On December 31, 1966, the mine was shut down, with CSR claiming that the business was not profitable for them.
Wittenoom was the only city in Australia that had blue asbestos. During the 30 years of operation, the company shipped over 150,000 tons of the toxic material across the world. In 1966, the town was declared too dangerous for humans to inhabit. More than 2,000 people who resided in the city suffered serious illnesses such as cancer, which eventually caused their demise. Thousands of others were still suffering from breathing related issues and the entire town was ordered to be evacuated. Everyone except for three people left the city until 2019, when they too were asked to leave. Today, Wittenoom remains as one of the most contaminated places in the country with more than 3 million tons of asbestos laying around. (source)
4. Iron Mountain, California
Throughout the history of the United States, mining has played a huge economic role. The mines however, depleted precious metals, depriving our planet of its resources and were abandoned once the mining operations were not making profits. Most of the mines were abandoned without considering environmental factors and the damages they can cause. Today, mine dumps are leaching into streams and lakes, affecting the marine and wildlife. Heavy metals such as copper, lead, zinc, and mercury leach into the water, changing the pH value.
In the Richmond Mine in Iron Mountain, California, the pH values are as low as −3.6 and total dissolved metal concentrations are as high as 200 g/L, while the sulfate concentrations are as high as 760 g/L. These acid waters, formed primarily by pyrite oxidation, are the most acidic waters in our planet. (source)
5. Antipodes Island, New Zealand
Located in the south Pacific, approximately 500 miles away from SE of New Zealand, lies an isolated, uninhabited island, called the Antipodes island. Although the island is home to a wide variety of sea and land bird species, including the Antipodes Snipe, Antipodes Pipit, and Antipodes Parakeet, found nowhere else in the world, invasive mice were accidentally introduced in the 19th century, possibly by shipwrecks. The mice populated at a fast rate, destroying the islands precious natural ecosystem. According to Island Conservation, the mice ate almost everything, including invertebrates, vegetation, and possibly bird eggs and chicks. For years, organizations and teams of scientists have been studying and trying to eliminate the rodent species from the island, in order to restore the ecosystem. (source)
6. Ōkunoshima Island, Japan
Ōkunoshima Island, a.k.a. Rabbit Island, was once used as a top-secret location for chemical weapons testing. Today, the island is overrun by rabbits who roam freely. Located about two miles off the coast of Takehara in Hiroshima Prefecture, the island is only accessible via a 15-minute ferry ride from Japan’s mainland. Upon arrival, animal lovers can feed them, cuddle them, take pictures of them or walk around with the fluffy creatures. Currently, it is estimated that the island has more than 1,000 rabbits that live by their own set of rules; which is virtually none.
Although it’s unclear as to how these rabbits arrived at the island, many historians believe that they were brought by Japanese government around 1929 for testing purposes. When the test sites were shut down, the rabbits were set free, which led to them multiplying by the hundreds. Today, the rapid increase in rabbit population poses a huge threat since the island does not contain enough vegetation to feed all of them. (source)
7. Danakil Desert, Ethiopia
In the Afar region of northern Ethiopia, lies a vast, uninhabited, desert plain called the Danakil Depression. With temperatures averaging 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34.5 Celsius), it is one of the hottest and most inhospitable places on Earth. The highest temperature ever recorder was above 122 Fahrenheit (50 Celsius), prompting National Geographic to call it “the cruelest place on Earth”. Sulfur springs, volcanoes, geysers, acidic pools, vast salt pans, and colorful mineral-laden lakes dot the area. The heat and constant volcanic activity makes the Danakil desert an uninhabitable place but locals in Ethiopia are known to travel to the desert and collect salt rocks by hand. (source)
8. Javari Valley, Brazil
The Javari Valley in Brazil is home to one of the largest indigenous groups known to mankind. According to Brazil’s Indian affairs agency, FUNAI, an unknown indigenous group, is believed to consist of as many as 200 people, who call the Javari Valley home. The discovery was only made recently with the help of satellite imagery. Once the images shed light into their existence, aerial surveillance and drones have confirmed the group to exist. Not much is known about the tribe but they live a primitive life, unaware of the outside world. The Javari reserve is especially well protected from intrusions, and no other person in the world is allowed to inhabit this vast jungle land. (source)
9. Centralia, Pennsylvania
Although it’s unclear as to how it all started, a coal vein has been burning under the Pennsylvania mining town of Centralia since 1962. Some reports suggest that the fire could have been started by careless trash incineration in a landfill that was next to the pit mine. Since the fire, poisonous gases and hot air has been blowing from underneath the land for decades. In fact, the land became completely uninhabitable, leading to emergency evacuations. Some reports suggest that just by touching the ground, one can feel the warmth of fire burning below Earth.
Due to the fire releasing harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, and consuming plant life, the area is completely sealed by the State of Pennsylvania. To make things worse, the ground is also unpredictable, which could collapse at any time. Despite the warning signs and police patrolling the area, enthusiasts make their way through and spray graffiti on the roads. (source)
10. Kabwe, Zambia
The town of Kabwe in Zambia is known as the world’s most toxic town; according to pollution experts. For more than a century, lead mining and smelting (a process where metal is extracted by heating and melting) has released harmful gases into the atmosphere, that has been causing health issues for the residents. The town once had a population of 220,000 but many had to evacuate their homes due to their decline in health.
Although cleanup processes are underway, the toxicity in the air is still high. A German organization called Terrre des Hommes has been funding a project where the land is being cleaned one house at time. During the process, contaminated sand is removed from homes and surrounding areas, which is then replaced with clean soil from elsewhere. (source)