World’s Amazing Islands

World’s Amazing Islands

GUNKANJIMA (Japan): the Ghost (and forbidden) Island

Gunkanjima is one among 505 uninhabited islands in the Nagasaki Prefecture about 15 kilometers from Nagasaki itself. The island was populated from 1887 to 1974 as a coal mining facility. The island’s most notable features are the abandoned concrete buildings and the sea wall surrounding it. It is known for its coal mines and their operation during the industrialization of Japan. Mitsubishi bought the island in 1890 and began the project, the aim of which was retrieving coal from the bottom of the sea. They built Japan’s first large concrete building, a block of apartments in 1916 to accommodate their burgeoning ranks of workers, and to protect against typhoon destruction.

In 1959, its population density was 835 people per hectare for the whole island, or 1,391 per hectare for the residential district, one of the highest population density ever recorded worldwide. As petroleum replaced coal in Japan in the 1960s, coal mines began shutting down all over the country, and Hashima’s mines were no exception. Mitsubishi officially announced the closing of the mine in 1974, and today it is empty and bare, which is why it’s called the Ghost Island. Travel to Hashima is currently prohibited.

4. SURTSEY (Iceland): The emerging island

Off the coast of Iceland on the morning of 14 November 1963, the crew of a lone fishing trawler spotted an alarming sight. Off to the southwest of the Ísleifur II, a column of dark smoke was rising from the water. Concerned that it could be another boat on fire, the captain directed his vessel towards the scene. Once there, however, they found not a boat but a series of violent explosions producing ash. This was an unmistakable indication of a volcanic eruption taking place underwater, close to the surface. Very aware of the potential danger but eager to watch, the crew kept their boat nearby. It was indeed a remarkable event that they would witness a small part of over the course of that morning: the formation of a brand-new island.

Although now quite visible, the eruption lasted for much, much longer than the Ísleifur II would have been able to watch. After several days, the volcano had broken the water’s surface, forming an island over 500 meters long and 45 meters tall. Even though the rough tides of the North Atlantic might have soon eroded the new island away, it was named Surtsey, meaning ‘Surtur’s island’ – Surtur (or Surtr) being a fire giant of Norse mythology. The island proved to be tenacious, however. The eruption was ongoing and Surtsey increased in size more quickly than the ocean could wear it down. In the meantime two other nearby volcanic eruptions produced the beginnings of islands, but neither lasted very long. By April 1964, though, the most violent parts of the eruption were over and Surtsey remained.

It was fairly clear that it was going to be a permanent island – or at least as permanent as anything can be in geology. The explosions returned in August 1966, and only stopped when the entire eruption finally came to an end in June 1967. Since then, the volcano has lain dormant. The island was left 174 meters tall and about 2.8 square kilometers in size. At 33 kilometers south of the mainland, it also marked the new southernmost point of Iceland.

3. PALM ISLANDS (Dubai): the palm-shaped man-made island

The Palm Islands in Dubai are the three largest artificial islands in the world. They are being constructed by Nakheel Properties, a property developer in the United Arab Emirates, who hired the Dutch dredging and marine contractor Van Oord, one of the world’s specialists in land reclamation. The islands are The Palm Jumeirah, The Palm Jebel Ali and The Palm Deira. The Islands are located off the coast of The United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf and will add 520 km of beaches to the city of Dubai.

The first two islands will comprise approximately 100 million cubic meters of rock and sand. Palm Deira will be composed of approximately 1 billion cubic meters of rock and sand. All materials will be quarried in the UAE. Between the three islands there will be over 100 luxury hotels, exclusive residential beach side villas and apartments, marinas, water theme parks, restaurants, shopping malls, sports facilities and health spas. The creation of The Palm Jumeirah began in June 2001. Shortly after, The Palm Jebel Ali was announced and reclamation work began. In 2004, The Palm Deira, which will be almost as large in size as Paris, was announced. Palm Jumeirah is currently open for development. Construction will be completed over the next 10-15 years.

2. SEALAND (Principality): World’s smallest island

The Principality of Sealand is an island and a micronation located on HM Fort Roughs, a former Maunsell Sea Fort located in the North Sea 10 km (six miles) off the coast of Suffolk, England, in what is claimed as territorial waters using a twelve-nautical-mile radius.
Since 1967, the installation has been occupied by associates and family of Paddy Roy Bates, a former radio broadcaster and former British Army Major, who claims that it is a sovereign and independent state. Critics, as well as court rulings in the United States and in Germany, have claimed that Roughs Tower has always remained the property of the United Kingdom, a view that is disputed by the Bates family. The population of the facility rarely exceeds ten, and its habitable area is 550 m2 (5920 sq ft).
Sealand’s claims to sovereignty and legitimacy are not recognised by any country, yet it is sometimes cited in debates as an interesting case study of how various principles of international law can be applied to a territorial dispute.

1. EASTER ISLAND (Polynesian triangle, Chile): world heritage site and one of the most isolated inhabited islands in history

Easter Island is one of the world’s most isolated inhabited islands. It is 3,600 km (2,237 miles) west of continental Chile and 2,075 km (1,290 miles) east of Pitcairn. Nowdays, it is a Chilean-governed island, and is a world heritage site with much of the island protected by the Rapa Nui National Park.

First settled by a small party of Polynesians, Easter Island is one of the youngest inhabited territories on Earth, and for most of its history it was the most isolated inhabited territory on Earth. Its inhabitants the Rapanui have endured famines, epidemics, civil war, slave raids and colonialism; have seen their population crash on more than one occasion, and created a cultural legacy that has brought them fame out of all proportion to their numbers.
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