By definition, island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water, with other words it is a place apart from the rest of the world.
Every island might have its own challenges by forming their own little ‘universes’ away from the mainland. Nobody really knows how many islands there are on the face of the Earth, but their number can be well over one million different in size and shape. And as you can imagine there are some out there that are more different and unique than others. Here is the list of the most bizarre of them:
1. Lasqueti Island
Lasqueti Island is about an hour’s ferry ride from Vancouver. It is inhabited by a community comprising of 350 highly educated people like poets, artists, physicists and more and 70 children. The community is self-sufficient and lives off the grid. The large solar panels offer electricity, wind and water turbines are other conventional gas generators. There are some people of the community who live without electricity and use fire instead for their survival.
The island has no paved roads, irregularity in fresh water and no sewage system. The ferryboat makes one to two trips per day for five days in a week depending on the weather conditions. Most inhabitants grow their food and do not rely on the markets. Money has no purpose or value on the island. The people share things between them. There is one pub, one café and a store that lets the residents share their stuff. A lady breeds dogs on the island and has over 40 St Bernards and around 1000 feral sheep.
Outsiders love to visit or join the island community, however, there is a piece of advice that is given by the residents, “Lasqueti is not some utopian paradise, it is not an ‘intentional community’, and it is probably not whatever you think it is – it is just a relatively remote island, populated by a small, tight-knit community of quirky, independent-minded people, with its own unique culture and identity. Come with an open mind, a willingness to discover something a little different, and without rigid expectations. Resist the urge to project upon us your vision of what this place ‘should’ be. It is what it is, and we like it this way, warts and all.”
2. Bouvet Island
Bouvet Island is the most isolated, uninhabited and scariest island on earth. It is located around 1370 miles away from Africa’s southernmost top and is about the same distance away from Antarctica. The island is also a part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and since 1927, it officially belongs to the Norwegians.
The island’s surface is covered with thick ice, vertical volcanic rocks, high glacial cliffs and underwater reefs. It ‘s hard to dock or leave the island by boat. The best way to get to the island is by a helicopter. It is located right along the path of the Furious Fifties Winds, which is based on an old sailor’s saying, “below 40 degrees south there is no law/below 50 degrees south there is no God.” The Furious Fifties Winds indicate the incessant violent storms and six-story high waves which are sprinkled with icebergs.
Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier discovered this island in 1739. However, he misplaced it on the map, and it took almost 70 years for another sailor to rediscover it in 1808. In 1964, an expedition to the island revealed few facts about the island. An abandoned and half-swamped rowing boat was found in a blue lagoon surrounded by a colony of seals. The rowing boat seemed like a lifeboat. However, it did not have any identity mark or country emblem, and the nearest trade route was around one thousand miles away.
No hints were found on the shore either except for some equipment that was lying close to the boat. One of the hypotheses of the ship is that it can be a part of the Soviet expedition to Antarctica which may have visited the island in 1959. But, it remains unconfirmed, and mystery still surrounds the island.
3. Luzon, Island Inside a Lake
The largest island of Philippines has a lake with an island in it. Within the island is a lake which also has an island! Confusing isn’t it? Let us now decode it in a better way. A large island in the Philippines called as the Luzon was still part of the ocean. After a series of volcanic eruptions during the 1700s, the island became a lake, and volcanic debris dammed the entrance.
A shallow river connects Lake Taal with the South China Sea. The salty waters have now turned fresh because of rains. The species have adapted to their new environment. The sea snake species found here can also live in fresh water. Until the 1930s, a bull shark was also residing in the lake. However, it was driven to extinction by the locals.
Inside the Lake Taal, is an island called as the Volcano Island. It is the volcano’s cone which is rising above the water. The cone’s caldera is filled with water and is known as the Yellow Lake owing to its greenish-yellow color. Within the Yellow, Lake is a small islet called as the Vulcan Point.
For many years, this islet was considered as the largest third order island of the world. However, with Google Maps, some people found a bigger one on Victoria Island in Northern Canada. But Lake Taal and its associated islands are the most famous tourist attractions of Philippines than the ones in Canada.
4. Ada Kaleh – The Ottoman ‘Atlantis’
River Danube passes through a series of narrow and vertical gorges with the Carpathian Mountains to the north and the Balkan Hills to the south which is considered as the most picturesque view. The mighty River Danube is squeezed through a 490-feet wide channel, and the water reaches a depth of over 170 feet. The gorges are also known as the Cauldrons and make the Danube seem like its boiling with its waters rushing through the narrow path, where an island once existed.
The island was referred by many names, the most prominent being Ada Kaleh, which means Island Fortress in Turkish. In 1430, the Teutonic Knights called it as Saan. Some are of the opinion that the island was mentioned by Herodotus in his Histories in early 5th century BC.
In 16th and 18th centuries, the island’s location has seen many conflicts mainly between the Austrians and the Ottomans. A fortress was built in 1689 only to be conquered, destroyed and rebuilt to be reconquered many times. The Treaty of Sistova in 1791 marked the end of the fourth Austro-Turkish War, and Ada Kaleh was handed over to the Ottomans.
In the 19th century, the island lost its military importance, and the Turks started losing grip on the Balkan region. By the end of the 1800s, the Ottomans freed Romania, Montenegro and Serbia along with Bulgaria. But Ada Kaleh was left as an exclave with 1000 inhabitants who were exempted from all taxes, military service and tolls.
In 1923, the Ottoman empire was dissolved, and the Republic of Turkey came into being. The island’s inhabitants joined Romania. They still enjoyed exemption from taxes and Ada Kaleh soon became the most favorite tourist place. Right from black tea to locally grown tobacco, the island had a lot to offer. In the mid-1960s, the communist regimes of Yugoslavia and Romania decided to rebuild the Iron Gates Hydroelectric Dam downriver from Ada Kaleh. By 1971, the dam was ready, and the island was depopulated. Slowly, the island disappeared under the waves. The iconic minaret and other structures were blown up using dynamite to safeguard future water transportation.
5. Gunkanjima Island
This island is famous for its appearance in the famous movie, Skyfall, in 2012, as the lair of James Bond’s villain, Raoul Silva. Gunkanjima is also known as the Hashima Island is a 16-acre land spread around 9 miles away from the city of Nagasaki. The island looks like a battleship from the side. It is one of the 505 inhabited islands. It is surrounded by a seawall and by late 1950s, it was famous as “Midori nashi Shima,” or the island without green. Every square inch of the island is covered in concrete and has many tall apartment buildings, corridors, courtyards and winding stairways. The island was home to almost 5500 people, the highest population density in human history.
In 1810, coal was found, and mining started in 1887. In 1890, Mitsubishi bought the island and began extracting coal from the underwater mines. It was later closed in 1974 and the mine produced around 15.7 million tons of coal. The island had a school, hospital, community center, cinema and other entertainment sources. But from the 1930s till the end of World War II, most of the people were Korean conscripts and Chinese prisoners who were forced to work in the mines. Around 1300 people died on this island at that time either due to mining accidents or malnutrition or exhaustion.
In the 1960s, Japan replaced coal with petroleum as its primary source of power and the coal mines slowly phased out. After 1974, the island was abandoned and stayed deserted till 2009. In 2009, a small part of the island was thrown open to tourists, The Japanese government wanted the island to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, but South Korea opposed.
The two governments compromised in 2015 when Japan agreed to throw light on the atrocities that took place there during the 1930s and ’40s.
6. North Sentinel Island
The North Sentinel Island is located in the Andaman Archipelago in the Bay of Bengal. It is home to the last tribe of humans who have no contact with the outside world. Around 50 to 400 people currently live on this island. Whenever any connection has been attempted with the Sentinelese tribe, they retaliate by firing arrows. The tribe is incredibly territorial towards outsiders.
Surrounded by shallow reefs, the island is quite perilous to dock or sail away. The tribe have lived in isolation for over 60,000 years ever since early man left Africa which gives them the oldest genetic makeup in the world. In 1880, a British expedition searched the land and came across six Sentinelese, an elderly couple and four children. They were taken to Port Blair on the nearby Middle Andaman Island. However, the elders took ill and died. The children were sent back to the island with some goods.
Contact with these people was tried several times, but all in vain. In 1981, a ship got grounded on the reefs. The tribesmen sought to overtake it, but due to a storm, rescue arrived after a week during which the crew held them off with axes, metal pipes and flare guns. Satellite images still show the wreckage.
In 2006, two fishermen got stranded on the island, and the tribesmen killed them. When a helicopter was sent to retrieve their bodies, they were greeted with arrows, The Sentinelese were considered as Stone Age people except for the fact of some metal that they scavenged from derelict ship to tip their arrows. The tribe are hunter gatherers who have never used agriculture and have built canoes that can be utilized only in shallow waters around their island.
The Indian government has imposed an exclusion zone around the North Sentinel Island to preserve the ancient tribe.
7. Ball’s Pyramid
A long extinct volcano that erupted around 7 million years resulted in Ball’s Pyramid, an 1843-foot-tall vertical spire that comes out of the ocean floor. It is one of the tallest volcanic stacks in the world. Known as one of the best scuba diving destination in Australia, it is located 400 miles from northeast of Sydney and is closer to Lord Howe’s island.
The island is famous for a stick insect known as the Dryococelus australis, or “land lobsters” or “walking sausages”. These insects are six inches long and are the heaviest stick insect of the world. In 1918, a supply ship got stuck on the Lord Howe Island, and it took nine days to repair it. During that time, some rats entered the island and started multiplying in number as they fell in love with the delicacy called as walking sausages. In two years, the insect went extinct.
In 2001, two scientists decided to scale the spire after hearing some rumors in the 1960s regarding the discovery of dead stick insects. After a rigorous search, they could find nothing, and while they were returning, they found a single melaleuca bush piercing through a rock. Underneath the bush, there were 24 land lobsters, may be the last of their kind. It is not known how they made it to the Ball’s Pyramid. Two years later, the scientists returned and took the two insects in an attempt to breed them in captivity,
In 2008, there were 700 adults and over 11,000 eggs in incubation. According to the scientists, the insects live only in the lonely bush on the Ball’s Pyramid.
8. Snake Island
Around 90 miles away from Sao Paulo’s coast in Brazil is an island which is full of snakes. There are so many snakes on the island that the Brazilian government has imposed a ban on people from visiting it. Only the navy can visit the island to conduct periodic checks on the automated lighthouse once a year. However, even the navy ventures into the island with a doctor. The island’s official name is Ilha da Queimada Grande.
There are many stories associated with the name of the isle. One such story is about a fisherman who landed on the island in search of bananas but was found dead in his boat with snake bites all over his body. Another story is about a lighthouse keeper and his family who were killed by snakes entering their house through the windows.
There is also a story about pirates who are said to be the ones who brought the snakes to the island to protect their buried treasure. But the real story takes us back around 11,000 years ago during the end of the last Ice Age. The island was well connected to the mainland. But waters of the ocean began to rise, and the snakes were living there were stranded on the isle. Since there were no predators, they started multiplying rapidly. The migratory birds were their primary source of food.
Venomous snakes bite their prey and wait for the venom to act, however, these snakes evolved a particular kind of poison which was more potent and killed the birds instantly. The island is said to be filled with Golden Lancehead Vipers. According to Marcelo Duarte, a scientist with the Brazilian Butantan Institute, the venom of these vipers are loaded with medicinal benefits. He says the venom helps in treating heart diseases, circulatory problems and is also a potential anti-cancer drug. Due to this, poaching has become rampant. The price of each snake is anywhere between $10,000-30,000, while the number of golden lanceheads has dipped by 50% over the past 15 years. Today, the snake is listed endangered.
9. Floating Islands
There are many floating islands in the world, and they come in many forms. They are regarded as lakes or marshlands. In some cases, the vegetation and other organic materials break away from the shore and start entering the water to reattach themselves to another bank. Such type of floats or suds has various size and thickness. When islands are formed out of oceans, they are huge and do not have any particular size or shape. Some trash on these islands is made of small pieces of plastic that float through the water and in most cases sink to the bottom.
Pumice rafts are created when underwater volcanoes go dormant and give out large volcanic rocks. The material floats and spreads on the ocean for many years and months and travels distances before the pumice is saturated and sinks back to the bottom. If the pumice is large, some of them can have grass and palm trees growing on them. Scientists believe that animals and plants may have migrated between ocean islands using these pumice rafts. In fact, some may have played a significant role in creating life on earth.
In 2012, the Havre Seamount underwater volcano erupted which created a floating island, roughly in the size of Israel, around 7500 square miles in size. The island was seen near the Raoul island in the South Pacific, in between New Zealand and Fiji. Lieutenant Tim Oscar, of the Royal Australian Navy, describes it as “the weirdest thing I’ve seen in 18 years at sea. The rock looked to be sitting two feet above the surface of the waves and lit up a brilliant white color in the spotlight. It looked exactly like the edge of an ice shelf.”
In 2006, some people were yachting from the Island of Neiafu to Fiji, and they saw a pumice raft during formation. They sailed through it for several hundred meters before turning back. If they had waited longer, the engine would have clogged, and they would have been stranded.
10. The Garden of Eden
The Bible gives us details about the actual location of Eden in Genesis 2. According to the Bible, a river flows through the Garden of Eden, and the river has four tributaries, two of which are called the Tigris and Euphrates in modern day Iraq. The other two rivers are known as the Pishon and the Gihon. The two missing rivers are believed to pass through the lands of Cush and Havilah. Senior geologist Ward Sanford has identified two riverbeds in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula that flow towards the Persian Gulf.
According to Sanford, during the last Ice Age, the sea levels were low, and the weight of the glaciers on the continents pushed the areas with narrow strait upward. The Persian Gulf and the Red Sea may have been dry then, had four rivers that could have met in a zone which is now underwater.
The semi-mythical lands of Dilmun are mentioned in the old Sumerian scripts which are around 4000 years old and also in early poems and the Epic of Gilgamesh. The area is described just like the Garden of Eden in the Bible. Dilmun has also been described as a vast empire and an important trading hub between ancient Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley Civilization. It has been located on Bahrain island.
In the Old Testament, Ezekiel hints Eden to be a trading hub, probably referring to Dilmun. In other words, there is a possibility that Bahrain is the Garden of Eden. It is important to note that there is a story that indicates a snake in the Epic of Gilgamesh in his journey to Dilmun. A snake cult was maintained in Bahrain, 2000 years after the event was described in the epic.
So, the next time you plan to go on vacation, get a little adventurous and visit one or two of the island mentioned above someday!