1GUNKANJIMA (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.
2SURTSEY (Iceland): The emerging 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.
3PALM ISLANDS (Dubai): the palm-shaped man-made island
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.
4SEALAND (Principality): World’s smallest island
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.
5EASTER ISLAND (Polynesian triangle, Chile): world heritage site and one of the most isolated inhabited islands in history
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.
6MALDIVE ISLANDS: the paradisiac island nation with 1,192 islets
Originally the inhabitants were Buddhist, but Islam was introduced in 1153. It later became a Portuguese (1558), Dutch (1654), and British (1887) colonial possession. In 1965, the Maldives obtained independence from Britain (originally under the name “Maldive Islands”), and in 1968 the Sultanate was replaced by a Republic. However, in thirty-eight years, the Maldives have seen only two Presidents, though political restrictions have loosened somewhat recently. The Maldives is the smallest Asian country in terms of population. It is also the smallest predominantly Muslim nation in the world.
7THE WORLD ISLANDS (Dubai): man-made islands in the form of a world map
8ALCATRAZ ISLAND (USA): home to the first lighthouse on the Pacific Coast
The discovery of gold in California in 1848 brought thousands of ships to San Francisco Bay, creating an urgent need for a navigational lighthouse. In response, Alcatraz lighthouse #1 was erected and lit in the summer of 1853. Because of its natural isolation in the middle of a bay, surrounded by cold water and strong sea currents, Alcatraz was soon considered by the U.S. Army as an ideal location for holding captives. Alcatraz was the Army’s first long-term prison, and it was already beginning to build its reputation as a tough detention facility by exposing inmates to harsh conditions and iron fisted discipline. Due to rising operational costs because of its location, the Military Department decided to close this famous prison in 1934, and it was subsequently taken over by the Department of Justice and later became the famous federal prision and finally a recreation area.