The Island of Cats

The Island of Cats

Cat Island also known as Tashirojima is a small island in Ishinomaki, Miyagi, Japan. The island contains two villages. The number of people living on the island has fallen from over 1000 to just under 100 in the last 50 years. However, for every person on the island, there are at least 6 cats.

Cats outnumber humans 6 to 1

In Japan’s late Edo Period(the 1800’s), much of the island raised silkworms for their textiles. The residents kept cats to chase the mice away from their silkworms. Over time, this cat population began to grow rapidly.

The local people believe that feeding cats will bring wealth and good fortune. Some residents even claim that it was the cats who kept the majority of the island from being destroyed during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

They have even built a shrine to the cats placed between the two villages. The story around the shrine is that one day when the fishermen were collecting rocks to use with the fishing nets, a stray rock fell and killed one of the cats. The fishermen, feeling sorry for the loss of the cat, buried it and enshrined it at this location on the island.

Cat Shrine

There are no pet dogs allowed on the island. Lucky cats!

Hey! Have you heard about the village built in an island volcano?

Shrine photo credit: ダダ

The Volcano Village Island

The Volcano Village Island

Aogashima

Aogashima is a volcanic Japanese island in the Philippine Sea, located  222 mi south of Tokyo.
The island’s area is 3.38 sq mi and, as of 2014, its population is 170.

Still Active!

The volcano is still considered a Class-C active volcano by the Japan Meteorological Agency.
The history of human settlement on Aogashima is uncertain. The island is mentioned in Edo period records kept at Hachijō-jima, which recorded volcanic activity in 1652, and from 1670–1680. An earthquake swarm in July 1780 was followed by steam rising from the island lakes. Further earthquakes in May 1781 led to an eruption. In April 1783, lava flows resulted in the evacuation of all 63 households on the island. During a massive eruption in 1785, some 130–140 of the population of 327 islanders perished.

Japan’s smallest village

With only a population of 170, it is the smallest village in Japan.  There is only one postal address to this island and the post worker delivers based on the name of the individual.
There is no direct transport from the main island of Japan to Aogashima. To travel to Aogashima you’ll first need to go to Hachijojima (which is 43 miles away from Aogashima) and then take a helicopter or ship.
There is no restaurant on the island, but there are two Japanese bars. Islanders make a local alcohol Shochu (30% proof!) from sweet potato called “Aochu”

Hot Springs

The island has several hot springs due to the geothermal energy of the volcano. According to one tourist, who wrote about a visit to one of the island’s natural saunas, you can bring food and cook it by placing it on top of one of the sauna’s steam vents. The sauna has a collection of pots and pans at the ready for boiling eggs and other snacks.
 Hey! Have you heard about the abandoned town in Ukraine?
 
Snake Island-The World’s Most Dangerous Island

Snake Island-The World’s Most Dangerous Island

Snake Island

The World’s Most Dangerous Island

Snake Island is home to the Golden Lancehead, a very deadly snake. The island is also known as Ilha da Queimada Grande and sits about 21 miles off the coast of Brazil. It is the island with the most venomous snakes in the world, making it the world’s most dangerous island!

History of the Island

Ilha da Queimada Grande means “the island of the big land-clearing fire” in Portuguese since locals in the 19th century used this technique to clear the land. The plan was to build a banana plantation on the island, but as soon as the explorers saw the snakes, plans were quickly abandoned.
The island is just 110 acres or 430,000 square meters it is pretty small for an island. It has many various types of terrain, beaches, grassy areas, rainforest, and bare rocks.
While we all may like to get off the beaten path when we travel, may I suggest you NOT visited this place? It is actually illegal to do so, but if that is not enough to deter you, then an island with thousands of snakes with venom that melts flesh ought to do it!
If you somehow managed to be in a boat around Snake Island, it would appear that an ideal place to head to the shoreline or into the rainforest. It has a calm atmosphere with temperatures running from 19 degrees Celsius in August to 28 degrees Celsius in March. It is easy to see it as just some other beautiful tropical island.

How many snakes are on snake island Brazil?

The island was once thought to have a population of about 430,000 snakes, but some estimates are now lower, but still in the hundreds of thousands.
The island was once part of the mainland, but the snakes became trapped when about 11,000 years ago rising sea levels covered up the land that connected it to the mainland, making it an island. This left the snakes to adapt to their environment, increase rapidly in population.

Are there people on Snake Island?

Not anymore, though at one time whole families lived there to maintain the lighthouse which is still standing. You can find it on Google Earth.

Snake Island Lighthouse

Snake Island Lighthouse

A lighthouse was constructed in 1909 to steer ships away from the island, operated by a single family. During one supply trip, in the 1920s, the crew of the supply boat found the lighthouse abandoned and the door left open. The family was found, dead, having died from attacks by golden lanceheads that had entered the residence. The lighthouse is now automated.

Golden Lancehead snakes entering the lighthouse

The Golden Lancehead snake

The golden lancehead snake (Latin name: Bothrops insularis) is one of the most dangerous snakes in the world. It gets its common name from the golden color of the underbelly grows to about a length of 28 inches but some snakes have been found that have grown to 46 inches.
It is thought that there are between 2,000 to 4,000 golden lancehead vipers on snake island. No one has been brave enough to go count them 1 by 1!
The venom of this most dangerous animal is said to melt human flesh and one bite can cause kidney failure, intestinal bleeding, brain hemorrhaging, and can be fatal within one hour of being bitten.

What do the Golden Lancehead snakes eat?

 The only things the snakes have to eat is birds that land on the island. The golden lancehead snake has evolved to climb and wait in trees, to drop on birds that land nearby.
The snakes have no predators so they rapidly reproduce. Because there are so many snakes on one island there is fierce competition for resources. Some estimates have one snake to every square meter of the island,

Other Snakes of Snake Island

While the Golden Lancehead is the riskiest inhabitant on the island and has the best numbers, they aren’t the only snakes that call it home.
The Sauvage’s Snail-eater is a non-venomous snake and lives on the rainforest part of the island and eats, as their name implies, snails and other little bugs.
I wouldn’t want to run into any snakes, but by comparison, this one doesn’t sound so bad!

Poachers try to steal Golden Lancehead snakes!

Believe it or not, there are poachers who come to the island at night to steal away some of the snakes. On the black market, the snakes can be worth anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 US Dollars.
The only people who are legally permitted on the island are research teams to collect data and samples.

A very unlucky fisherman

According to the travel guidebook Atlas Obscura local people in the waterfront towns close to the island love to relate this terrible story:
A fisherman unwittingly wanders onto the island to pick bananas. Naturally, he is bitten. He manages to return to his boat, where he promptly succumbs to the snake’s venom. He is found sometime later on the boat deck in a great pool of blood. The other story is of the final lighthouse operator and his family. One night, a handful of snakes enter through a window and attack the man, his wife, and their three children. In a desperate gambit to escape, they flee towards their boat, but they are bitten by snakes on branches overhead.

The Brazilian Navy

By law, the island is closed to the public. Like they needed a law!
The Brazillian navy comes by every now and then to make sure the lighthouse is still working. They change the bulb and batteries on a yearly basis. They also patrol to make sure no thrill seekers are wandering the island.
There are no docks on the island, so the navy patrols must land on a small rocky coastline and carry the gear up very harsh terrain, all the while looking out for the snakes!
The ship waiting offshore is well staffed with dedicated medical personnel and to date, there have been no deaths due to snakebite so far.

Why don’t they just kill all the snakes?

Some readers on Facebook have asked why doesn’t the government just kill all the snakes? Apparently, the venom of the Golden Lancehead can provide useful medicine. Some Scientists think that there may be a possible anti-cancer drug or medicine to treat heart disease or blood clots contained in the golden lancehead’s venom.

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Aparently you are never more than 3 feet from a snake on this island!

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Hey, have you heard about the island of cats?
A Refrigerator in the Arctic

A Refrigerator in the Arctic

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault

 Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seed bank on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago, about  810 miles from the North Pole.  The seed vault is an attempt to insure against the loss of seeds in other genebanks during large-scale regional or global crises.

 Remote Location

The seed bank is 390 ft inside a sandstone mountain on Spitsbergen Island.  Seeds are packaged in special three-ply foil packets and heat sealed to exclude moisture.The facility is managed by the Nordic Genetic Resource Center, though there are no permanent staff on-site. It does enjoy state of the art security, though it is unlikely to be robbed or vandalized, due to its remote location and danger of Polar Bears.
Warning. Polar Bears!
Spitsbergen location

Yes, it is refrigerated!

Spitsbergen was considered ideal because it was absent of earthquake activity and had permafrost, which aids preservation. It is 430 ft above sea level will keep the site dry even if the ice caps melt. Locally mined coal provides power for refrigeration units that further cool the seeds to the internationally recommended standard of −0.4 °F (−18 °C). If the equipment fails, at least several weeks will elapse before the facility rises to the surrounding earth’s temperature of 27 °F (−3 °C)

Built to Last

It is thought that the vault could, for hundreds of years, and preserve most major food crops’ seeds. Some, including those of important grains, could possibly survive thousands of years.
The Seed Vault officially opened on 26 February 2008. Approximately 1.5 million distinct seed samples of agricultural crops are thought to exist. The facility has a capacity to conserve 4.5 million.  By 2013, approximately one-third of the general diversity stored in gene banks globally was represented at the Seed Vault. Even boxes of seeds from North Korea sit inside the vault!
Seeds from North Korea and Taiwan inside the main vault of Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Svalbard, Norway, July 2012

The Vault is the backup to seed banks around the world

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault’s mission is to provide a safety net against accidental loss of diversity in traditional genebanks. While the popular press has emphasized its possible utility in the event of a  global catastrophe, it will be more frequently accessed when samples are lost due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, funding cuts, and natural disasters. These events occur with some regularity. War and civil strife have a history of destroying some seed storage facilities. The national seed bank of the Philippines was damaged by flooding and later destroyed by a fire; the seed banks of Afghanistan and Iraq have been lost completely. According to The Economist newspaper, “the Svalbard vault is a backup for the world’s 1,750 seed banks, storehouses of agricultural biodiversity.”
By the request of the Norwegian government, no genetically modified seeds are stored in the vault.
Cover image by Bjoertvedt
The Micronation of Sealand

The Micronation of Sealand

It started as a Naval Fort

During World War 2 the British constructed several forts at sea to guard the port of Hardwich, Essex and the Thames estuary. One of these was Hm Fort Roughs, a 4500-ton naval installation 6 miles from the coast of Suffolk. The British government official entities used the fort until 1956 when all full-time personnel were finally removed.

Occupation

In 1966 Paddy Roy Bates,  and Ronan O’Rahilly, who both operated separate pirate radio stations, landed on Fort Roughs and occupied it in order to broadcast. Soon, the two began to argue and Roy Bates seized the tower for himself. In 1967, when O’Rahilly attempted to storm the fort, Roy Bates successfully defended the fort with guns and petrol bombs and continued to occupy it. Bates declared the platform to be its own country and named it Sealand

The Marines Intervene

In 1968, British workmen tried to service a navigational buoy near the platform.Bates claimed they were entering his territorial waters. His son Michael Bates tried to scare the workmen off by firing warning shots from the former fort. The British Royal Marines were called and the British authorities ordered Roy Bates to surrender.  Roy and his son were arrested and charged, but the court threw out the case as it did not have jurisdiction over international affairs as Roughs Tower lay beyond the territorial waters of Britain

Birth of a Nation

In 1975, Bates introduced a constitution for Sealand, followed by a national flag, a national anthem, a currency, and passports. They have also sold royal titles and knighthoods.

The Rebels Attack!

In August 1978, Alexander Achenbach, a German lawyer, but a Sealand passport holder(they issued 150,000), declared himself as the Prime Minister of Sealand. He hired several German and Dutch mercenaries to spearhead an attack on Sealand while Roy and his wife were in England.

They stormed the platform with speedboats, jet skis, and helicopters, and took Michael hostage. Michael was able to retake Sealand and capture Achenbach and the mercenaries using weapons stashed on the platform. Achenbach was charged with treason against Sealand and was held unless he paid US$35,000.

The governments of the Netherlands, Austria, and Germany petitioned the British government for his release, but the United Kingdom citing the 1968 court decision, said it had nothing to do with Britain.  Germany then sent a diplomat from its London embassy to Sealand to negotiate for a release. After several weeks of negotiations, Roy relented. He later claimed that the diplomat’s visit was official recognition of Sealand by Germany.

Sealand Today

In 2006, the top platform caught fire and one person had to be transferred to hospital by Royal Air Force helicopter. From 2007-2010 Bates tried but failed, to sell Sealand for US$906 million. In October 2012, Roy Bates died, and his wife passed in 2016.

Michael has taken over from his father and still occupies Sealand to this day.

He titles himself “Prince Michael”

Sealand Postage Stamp

Mailing Address

Sealand has only 1 mailing address, and it has to go through the Royal Mail. If you are feeling bored you can write to them:

Bureau of Internal Affairs
5, The Row
SEALAND 1001
(c/o Sealand Post Bag, IP11 9SZ, UK)