10 Most Uninhabitable Places on Earth

Our planet is the only place in our solar system that can sustain life. But surprisingly, there are many places on the planet that are extremely uninhabitable.  Whether they are uninhabitable due to their natural state or because of the nasty things that we, humans, have done to our environment, there are some places that you should never relocate to or even visit. Being infested with deadly snakes to becoming extremely toxic due to mining, we bring you 10 such places which are the most uninhabitable places on Earth.

1. Ilha da Queimada Grande

Commonly known as Snake Island, the island is filled with the extremely venomous golden lancehead pit viper with one snake per square meter.

Ilha da Queimada Grande, Bothrops insularis snake
Image credits: Prefeitura Municipal Itanhaém/flickr, Nayeryouakim/wikimedia

Snake Island was once part of the Brazilian mainland until it was isolated from the continent 11,000 years ago due to rising sea levels. The rising waters trapped the snakes on the island when it covered up the land that connected it to the mainland. The extremely venomous and critically endangered golden lanceheads flourished rapidly on the island since there were no ground-level predators on the island.

Scientists estimate that up to 4,000 snakes live on the 110-acre island, with some reports indicating that there exists one snake per square meter. This means that nearly every step you take on Snake Island, you might experience a face-to-face encounter with the world’s most dangerous serpents. These snakes are reportedly responsible for 90% of all snakebite-related deaths in Brazil.

The island is closed to the public and access is only available to the Brazilian Navy and selected researchers.(1,2)

2. Iron Mountain Mine, California

Iron Mountain Mine is the source of the most acidic waters on the planet. The water from the mine has pH values as low as 3.6, total dissolved metal concentrations as high as 200 g/l, and sulfate concentrations as high as 760 g/l.

Iron Mountain Mine
Image credits: U.S. Geological Survey/wikimedia, NOAA Restoration Center & Damage Assessment and Restoration Program /photolib.noaa.gov

Also known as the Richmond Mine at Iron Mountain, Iron Mountain Mine is a mine located near Redding in northern California. It was famous for iron, silver, gold, copper, zinc, and pyrite mining from the 1860s until 1963.

In the 1890s, a company by the name of Mountain Copper established a 4,400-acre mine at the site. They began to supply sulfuric acid to refineries in the Bay Area. They became the largest copper mine in California in the 1900s. Twenty cavities the size of office buildings were drilled into the rock. Excessive mining activity at the site ultimately fractured the mountain. This, in turn, exposed the underlying minerals to contact with water, rainwater, and oxygen. They combined to create a poisonous runoff. The result was the worst concentration of acid in the world, about 500 times more toxic than any other mine.

NASA once sent a robot into the mountain and nobody ever saw the machine again or collected any scientific data from it. The water is so acidic that it could dissolve fabrics and burn skin, making it one of the most uninhabitable places on Earth.(1,2)

3. Big Major Cay, Bahamas

Commonly known as Pig Beach, Big Major Cay is an uninhabited island that takes its unofficial name from the fact that it is populated by a colony of feral pigs that live on the island.

Pig Beach, Exuma Bahamas
Image credits: Pixabay, Pixabay

Big Major Cay is an uninhabited island. The island is populated by a colony of feral pigs that live on the island and in the surrounding shallows. It is said that the pigs might have been dropped on the island by a group of sailors who wanted to come back and cook them. The sailors never returned and the pigs survived on excess food dumped from passing ships. One legend says that the pigs were survivors of a shipwreck and managed to swim to the island, while another claims that the pigs escaped from a nearby islet. Others suggest that the pigs were part of a business scheme to attract tourists to the Bahamas.

Some experts believe that the phenomenon of pigs living on an island is an anomaly. This is because pigs do not normally live on beaches. Also, even though pigs do not enjoy the warm heat from the sun, these pigs at Big Major Cay gladly risk the tropical Bahaman sun to greet tourists. The pigs appeared on the island first in 2001. Their population has increased from seven in 2011 to 20 as of 2013. The island is approximately one square mile in size and has three natural springs that provide fresh water for drinking. The beach is protected by neighboring islands from large waves caused by tropical storms leaving the waters safe for the pigs to swim.(1,2)

4. Antipodes Islands, New Zealand

The Antipodes Islands are inhospitable volcanic islands that have an extremely cold climate and harsh winds. High densities of mice, unintentionally introduced to the island in the 19th century most likely by shipwrecks, are destroying the natural ecosystem.

Rat, Antipodes Islands south bay
Image credits: Pixabay, LawrieM/wikimedia

The Antipodes are a group of volcanic islands located south of New Zealand. The group consists of the main Antipodes Island, Bollons Island to the north, and several other smaller islets and rocks. Their remote location makes the islands a critically important breeding ground for thousands of marine mammals and millions of seabirds.

The island is harsh for people to survive because of its cold weather and fast blowing winds. Mean wind speeds vary from 30 km/hr to 40 km/hr. Precipitation generally occurs on more than 300 days per year. They have a mean annual temperature of 5°C. The islands are known for numerous shipwrecks and deaths. Some deaths have occurred from people trying to survive on the islands even though supplies were left there in castaway huts.

The island has a high density of house mice. They may have been introduced from a shipwreck or from one of the many sealing trips to the island following the island’s discovery in 1800. These mice are destroying the natural ecosystem of the islands by eating invertebrates, vegetation, and possibly bird eggs. In 2012, a “Million Dollar Mouse” campaign was launched to raise funds for an eradication program.(1,2)

5. Danakil Desert, Ethiopia

The Danakil Desert has been called “the cruelest place on Earth” by National Geographic. It is one of the hottest and most arid places on Earth. It is filled with sand, salt, heat, and volcanic activity.

Danakil Desert, Ethiopia
Image credits: maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com, Achilli Family | Journeys/flickr

Africa’s Danakil Desert is dotted with active lava beds, sulfurous hot springs, and salt lakes making it one of the harshest places to live. Temperatures rise to as high as 145 degrees Fahrenheit. It only receives 100 to 200 mm of rainfall per year and is also one of the lowest places on the planet, at 410ft (125m) below sea level. These factors make it one of the most inhospitable environments in the world.

Even under such harsh conditions, the desert is home to a few Afar people, who rely heavily on the salt present in the desert for their livelihood. They mine slabs of salt from the flats surrounding the Danakil Depression. They then load the slabs onto camels and travel miles back to the nearest city to offload and sell their precious cargo.(1,2)

6. Centralia, Pennsylvania

Centralia is a near-ghost town known for its underground mine fire that has been ongoing since 1962. The air is fouled by poisonous smoke. In 2013, it is estimated that only seven people live there.

Centralia, Pennsylvania
Image credits: JohnDS/wikimedia, JohnDS/wikimedia

Centralia, once home to more than 1,000 people, is a near-ghost town that’s been burning for half a century. It started with a fire intentionally set to burn out a landfill but the problem was that the landfill was also an old strip-mine pit connected to underground mining tunnels full of coal. Even though the fire above the ground was extinguished, a much bigger inferno burned underneath, and it eventually spread across the entire town.  Finally, between 1985 and 1991, the federal government appropriated $42 million to relocate residents and businesses because of the risk of pollution and subsidence.

It is said that there is enough coal underneath to keep the fire burning for another 250 years. The ground is filled with cracks from which poisonous smoke rises and it remains warm even during winters.(source)

7. The Death Valley, California

Death Valley is one of the hottest places on earth with temperatures often reaching as high as 130 degrees. It’s the lowest, driest, and hottest spot in the United States.

The Death Valley, California
Image credits: NASA/wikimedia, Pixabay

Death Valley holds the record for the highest temperature on Earth – 134°F on July 10, 1913. The temperature is so hot that it can easily cause death. This makes the place one of the most uninhabitable places on Earth. The average adult will need about four gallons of water to make it out unharmed.

The place is also one of the lowest points in the United States. The Valley’s Badwater Basin is 282 feet below sea level. There is a low level of “bad water” – where the site gets its name – in the basin from a nearby spring that is undrinkable. But this water seems to attract a good deal of flora and fauna. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife. Despite the ghastly name of the place, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.(source)

8. Wittenoom, Western Australia

Wittenoom, once famous for mining blue asbestos, is one of the most contaminated places in Australia. The town was shut down in 1966. Three people still live in the city as of 2017.

Warning Signboard, Wittenoom, Western Australia
Image credits: Five Years/wikimedia, Five Years/wikimedia

Wittenoom was a former site of a major blue asbestos mine. The mine operated from the late ’30s to the ’60s. For a span of 30 years, Wittenoom was the sole provider of blue asbestos in Australia.

Mining was shut down at Wittenoom after a link was discovered between asbestos and mesothelioma, a type of cancer, and other deadly diseases. Once the mine was shut down, many of the mining families moved on to other towns. But when it was discovered that the entire town had been contaminated by asbestos, the Australian government made moves to relocate the remaining townspeople, starting in 1978.

The town has nearly 3 million tons of asbestos tailings left around after the mining operation was abandoned. This makes this town one of the most contaminated places in the country. Officials tried to wipe Wittenoom off the map, even removing the town from maps and road signs. The town was also cut from the power grid to discourage settlers, but there are still three residents who call Wittenoom their home as of 2017. They claim that they love the isolation that the town provides.(source)

9. Kabwe, Zambia

Kabwe has been termed as the world’s most toxic town. There is too much lead dust in the soil and metals in the water as result of extensive mining.

Lead Mines, Kabwe, Zambia
Image credits: Larry C Price via theguardian.com, Larry C Price via theguardian.com

Kabwe is the world’s most toxic town according to pollution experts. Mass lead poisoning has damaged the brains and other organs of generations of children. The blood levels of lead in children in Kabwe are also known to be very high with a vast majority being over 45 micrograms per decilitre. Such high lead content in blood has the potential to cause brain, liver, and hearing damage. Some were over 150 micrograms per decilitre, at which point death is the most likely outcome. The safety limit is five micrograms per decilitre.

As of 2015, NGOs have started cleaning up the first homes. The project is funded by Germany’s Terrre des Hommes and delivered by Environment Africa and Pure Earth. More than 120 homes have had the soil in their yards replaced with clean soil from elsewhere.(source)

10. North Sentinel Island, Andaman Islands

This island is home to a group of indigenous people called the Sentinelese who, often violently, reject any contact with the outside world, and are among the last people worldwide to remain virtually untouched by modern civilization.

North Sentinel Island, Andaman Islands
Image credits: NASA/wikimedia, Love Bite Productions/youtube via dailymail.co.uk

North Sentinel Island is the most isolated island in the world. The island is home to the Sentinelese tribe who have lived on the island for more than 65,000 years. They are believed to be the direct descendants of the first humans out of Africa.

They fiercely maintain their isolation to this day. No one knows what language they speak or what they call themselves. They have never allowed anyone to get close enough to find out. They are prepared to attack anyone approaching the island. This has made the island one of the most uninhabitable places on the planet.

The Indian government has declared the entire island and its surrounding waters, up to 5.6 kilometers, to be an exclusion zone.(source)

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