With ever-ascending stress, we all need some time out to relax and rejuvenate our bodies and minds. Islands seem to be the perfect escape from our stressful lives. The image of an island itself is quite calming and peaceful. While islands are commonly seen as just a tourist destination, they can sometimes be as mysterious as the water that surrounds them. From strange genetic mutations to never-before-seen flora and fauna, islands can always surprise us with their unusual ecosystems. Keeping that in mind, we have compiled a list of ten fascinating islands that you may have never heard of.
1. The people of Solomon Island have a gene which gives their hair a blond hue despite of their dark skin.
About 10% of the population of this South Pacific island is born with naturally blonde hair. This strange phenomenon was thought of as a mutation due to a rich fish diet. Some inhabitants also relate it to an inherited gene from the European explorers and traders. However, research conducted by Stanford University denied those claims. According to the research, the gene that caused blonde hair in Europeans was very different from the one responsible for the blonde color in these islanders. The research included studying saliva samples of about a 1,000 islanders. It was then found that the cause of this strange blonde color was due to a gene called “TYRP1.” (source)
2. There is an island in Japan which is populated by rabbits. Due to the absence of any natural predator, these rabbits are very friendly and tame.
Okunoshima, an island located in the inland sea of Japan in the city of Takehara, Hiroshima, is home to thousands of bunnies. The island is a popular destination for animal lovers. Tourists from around the world are allowed to interact with the rabbits. The absence of any natural predators has resulted in bloom in the rabbit population. Although it might seem like a haven for rabbits, the history of the island is rather unpleasant. The island was once the location for the production of chemical weapons. During WW 2 the Imperial Japanese Army initiated a secret program to develop chemical weapons. The rabbits, perhaps, were used as test subjects in these laboratories. Eventually as the war came to an end, this program was shut down. The government has since banned any other animals from the island but the rabbits. (1, 2)
3. Pheasant Island, an island located on the French and Spanish border, changes its sovereignty every six months.
With only 200 meters long and 40 meters wide, Pheasant Island remains one of the most interesting places on Earth. This tiny island is located on the Bidasoa River on the French and Spanish border. According to the Treaty of Pyrenees, the island is under the joint sovereignty of France and Spain. The uninhabited island switches its sovereignty every six months. From February 1 to July 31, it falls under the governance of Spain and from August 1 to January 30, it is administered by France. (source)
4. Yap is an Island which uses massive, doughnut-shaped stones as its currency.
Yap Island is a part of Micronesia and is known for its stone money. Rai stones are mostly doughnut-shaped and can be as large as four meters in diameter. These stones were mined from the neighboring island of Palau and were transported using canoes and rafts. It is believed that due to the lack of limestone on Yap Island, these stones were considered valuable. To this day, the people of Yap use Rai stones in transactions. As the stones are too heavy to move, the only way of transferring ownership is through the word of mouth. It is said that one of the stones was sunk in the ocean while being transported to the island yet it still continues to be used in transactions to this date. (source)
5. The island of Galapagos is inhabited by several species of animals which lack the sense of fear. As the island lacks any natural predators, the wildlife of the island is extremely tame and fearless.
Galapagos Island is often referred to as a “living laboratory.” Due to its strange wildlife, it is extremely attractive to researchers. This archipelago of volcanic islands is located in Ecuador about six hundred miles from the mainland. Charles Darwin was one of the famous visitors to this island and was startled by the wildlife and behavior of the animals. One of the most fascinating things he observed about the island was that the animals were surprisingly tame and showed no signs of fear. While such mutations can be related to the absence of any predators on the Islands, yet the reason why there are no natural predators is still debated and discussed. (1, 2)
6. Hans Island is a disputed territory between Canada and Denmark. Despite all the territorial disagreements, both countries have managed to find a humorous way of dealing with it by leaving whiskey bottles for each other.
Hans Island is located in the Nares Strait which separates Greenland, an autonomous territory of Denmark, from Canada. The tiny island is only a half a square mile in area. According to international law, every country has a right to claim any territory which lies within 12 miles off its shore which is why the dispute over Hans Island hasn’t been resolved yet. While it’s common to resolve territorial disputes with guns and ammunition, these two countries have found a more subtle and peaceful way of showing their disagreement. When the Danish visit the island, they leave a bottle of Schnapps for the Canadians, and when the Canadian Army visits the island they leave a bottle of Canadian Club. (source)
7. There is a small island in the Pacific Ocean where about 10% of the population is completely colorblind.
Pingelap Island is dubbed as “The Island of the colorblind.” About 10% of the population of this Micronesian island suffers from complete achromatopsia which can be traced back to a king from the 18th century. Following a catastrophic typhoon which swept over the island, the king was one of the twenty survivors and is believed to be the carrier of this rare gene. To put in perspective, only one in 33,000 people in the United States suffer from this condition. The condition makes it almost impossible to see in bright daylight but allows them to navigate in the night without any difficulty. The people of the island use this rare disorder to their advantage while fishing during the dark hours. (source)
8. The natives of one of the Canary Islands speak in a whistled language. The language was very useful in the early days due to its range of up to five kilometers.
The whistled language, also known as “Siblo Gomero,” is used by the inhabitants of La Gomera to communicate over long distances. Due to the loud nature of the whistle, it was easier to communicate messages despite the treacherous terrain of the island. It is believed that the language existed even before the arrival of Spanish settlers in the 16th century. Despite being so unique, the use of the language has declined with the introduction of telephones and new technology. In the year 2009, it was declared as The Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. (source)
9. This Brazilian island. known as “Snake Island,” has the highest concentration of venomous snakes in the world. Travel to this island requires the approval of the Brazilian Navy, and a doctor is required to be present during the entire trip.
Ilha da Queimada Grande is situated about 25 miles off the coast of Brazil. It is considered as one of the most venomous places on earth. The island harbors a number of snake species but is dominated by the golden lancehead viper. There is one snake per every square meter on this 430,000 square meter island. Golden lancehead vipers are insanely venomous, and a bite can lead to immediate death. Visits to the island are prohibited by the government, but in case one wants to visit this venomous strip of land, they are required to get approval from the Brazilian Navy. There are several stories as to how the island became home to thousands of venomous lanceheads. One of the most popular one being that the island was infested with snakes by the pirates to keep their hidden treasure safe. As fascinating as it sounds, it was just a story. In reality, the island used to be a part of the mainland but was separated from it due to rising sea levels over time. (1, 2)
10. The Falklands Islands’ minefields have turned into a nature reserve for penguins that are not heavy enough to detonate them.
During the invasion of Falklands in 1982, the Argentine forces placed about 30,000 landmines to stop the British. Following the Falkland War, the British were successfully able to retain the land. De-mining efforts were made subsequently, but due to injuries and deaths, the operation was halted. As travel to the minefields was now prohibited, nature took over and it became a natural reserve for Gentoo and Magellanic penguins. Despite the number of penguins on the island, they don’t seem to be heavy enough to detonate these landmines. (1, 2)