About 20 miles off the coast of Brazil, in the South Atlantic Ocean, an isolated mountainous island of 110 acres sits completely alone. The closest island is at least 10 miles away and is only a fraction of the size. What makes this 110 acre island special is who, or rather what, lives there – pretty much nothing. Nothing but an estimated 400,000 of the world’s most deadly poisonous snakes!
That’s about one death-dealing serpent per square meter, and that’s why Ilha de Queimada Grande is called “Snake Island”. So, welcome to the last place on Earth you ever want to be…
Stories from the island abound, including local opinion 20 miles West in São Paulo where they will tell you that you can’t walk the ground of the island without walking on a snake. Another tells of a fisherman that having lost his engines was pushed by the current to the shores of Ilha de Queimada Grande.
When the boat was eventually found there was nothing left of the fisherman but torn clothing, blood, and bone – no doubt the work of the island’s most infamous tenant, the Golden Lancehead Viper, whose venom can rot the meat to the bone.
It’s unlikely that these stories are accurate as the island has had the occasional human visitor. The first of these visitors was a small group attempting to develop a banana plantation on the island.
It ended horribly, and in fact the fate of the banana plantation is where the island gets its proper name: “Ilha de Queimada Grande” is translated as the “island of the slash-and-burn fire”. Following the plantation disaster (I’m assuming it was a disaster), one very brave man took up residence on the island as the lighthouse keeper, and his incredibly devoted family joined him. They’re not there any more either. The locals of São Paulo will all tell you the same fateful ending of the family:
“The family ran in panic one night after snakes crawled in through their windows, and were bitten as they fled through the forest by vipers dangling from tree branches. Their bodies were found spread across the island when a navy vessel stopped to make a routine supply drop.”
Aside from being horribly fatal, what really makes Ilha de Queimada Grande worthy of inclusion in this blog is that nobody has as of yet managed to explain how or why this density of incredibly deadly snakes all ended up on one island.
In the last twenty years there have been only a handful of scientific expeditions to the island. Some came back attempting an explanation, but none that couldn’t be seen as completely full of holes.
Today the waters surrounding the island are patrolled by the Brazilian navy with a strict “no entrance” policy, and it’s not advisable to attempt crossing them. However, I would have to say that there are far easier ways to get yourself killed than an island full of snakes.