Scattered unpredictably across the vast oceans of the seven seas exist forgotten worlds – lost worlds devoured in history and the tears of the past. Worlds battered by waves and drenched in salt. The most intriguing thing about deserted islands is that they’re so dreadfully empty. Abandoned factories, houses, churches and other dusty buildings are everywhere, and commonly explored. But the beauty of the abandoned island, is the idea that they’re hidden from the passing eyes of the world – hidden by the harsh currents of the ocean and strictly forbidden to those who don’t own a boat. You’ve likely heard haunting tales of derelict asylums, ghost cities, and forgotten houses, but have you heard of these five deserted islands?
“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time” – Andre Gide
1. North Brother Island
Just 350 yards from the grey tenements of the bustling Bronx in New York, there exists a restricted derelict island skewed away from the public’s eye. The island features a labyrinth of abandoned hospital facilities that were in action for various purposes up until the early 1960s – first used as a quarantine zone for the infectiously diseased, then as accommodation for returning champions of World War Two. In the 1950s, the facility was converted into a drug rehabilitation zone for adolescent drug addicts who were often locked away out of their own will until they were proven clean. The island was deserted in 1963 due to an uprising of corruption among staff and many unsuccessful rehabilitation attempts. In plain sight of the watching citizens of the Big Apple, the island is now engulfed in a dense thicket of overgrown forestry, which conceal the Island’s crumbling history. The island is strictly off-limits to the public.
2. Battleship Island
Hashima Island, commonly known as Battleship island, sits isolated 15 kilometers off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan, and is strictly forbidden to the public due to its treacherous nature. In the typical choppy waters of the Nagasaki Prefecture, the island is often mistaken as a dreadnought battleship when viewed from a specific angle, hence its peculiar name. Bought by Mitsubishi in 1890, the island was utilised as a mining facility for coal and inhabited over 5,000 workers at the peak of its operations in the dusky grey concrete blocks of buildings in the late 1950s. Due to the replacement of coal for petroleum throughout the 1960s, the island was hastily shut down in 1974 and handed over to mother nature for some deep cleaning.
3. Palmyra Atoll
1,000 miles south of Hawaii exists an island reef completely untouched by the abrasion of human society. Technically owned by the USA, the modest 4.8 square mile territory is classified as an ‘unorganised’ and ‘uncontrolled’ area of land, meaning there is no such thing as a police officer to snatch that joint off weed from your sun-burnt finger tips as you prepare to do a dive of freedom into the turquoise waters of the lagoon. Upon the outbreak of World War Two, the USA constructed an airstrip here but nowadays, all that can be identified of the demolished naval base is a few dusty ruins embedded into the warm floor of the desolate island. Palmyra Atoll is famously notorious for the double murder that took place on the island in 1974, known hauntingly as the Sea Wind murders, where a wealthy a couple were mysteriously murdered on the island and their gruesome remains found seven years later in the lagoon in 1981.
4. Holland Island, Maryland, USA
Once a thriving community of fishers, this diminishing island in Chesapeake Bay relentlessly battled the ocean’s army of waves for over one hundred years. The island once boasted a shoreline over five miles long – with hundreds of residents, a couple of shops, a post office and a church, but the unusual marshy foundations of eventually gave in to the arresting waves of the bay, burying its existence. The last house to survive, constructed in 1888, slowly vanished into the sea in 2010 despite the ferocious efforts of many to prevent the sea from taking it into its own.
5. Spinalonga, Crete
Previously part of the island of Crete, Spinalonga was carved out into the ocean under Venetian rule and a fort was constructed on the island for defense purposes. Used as a location for a leper colony from 1903 to 1957, the island possessed a tunnel entrance used by the lepers called ‘Dante’s Gate,’ because they had no clue to what was going to happen to them once they reached the other end of the tunnel. Spinalonga has been derelict since the early 1960s, when the last inhabitant, a priest, deserted the island following the traditions of the Greek Orthodox church. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction, but visits to the empty fortress only last a few hours due to there being no accommodation – well, it just depends on how acceptable you think it is to spend the night in an ancient Greek tomb, but aside from that, the authorities don’t want you staying over night.