Just off of the coast of Brazil lies a currently uninhabited tropical island called the, Ilha da Queimada Grande. This fairly large tropical island is a rare thing, for it is uninhabited. There were plans to build a banana plantation there once however they fell through. There is but one thing that has, and still to this days halts the development of human settlements, plantations and everything else that could possibly tame the island. The problem is that the island in question plays host to some rather… troublesome wildlife.
When I say troublesome, I mean poisonous snake. Specifically the Golden Lancehead Pit-viper, one of the most poisonous snakes on Earth. A snake that is (fortunately) found nowhere on earth except for the island, it is also the only species of snake on the island, presumably having scared every other snake away. To give you an idea of how deadly it is, its nearest relative, the fer-de-lance, has only one fifth of the poisonous strength but yet and it is responsible for around 80% of all snakebite deaths across South America.
Now on first appearances the snakes are not a problem, the Brazilians can deal with snakes can’t they? Of course they can, they are the experts. However this island is beyond even their capabilities. The flow of migratory bird acts as a large food source that helps keep the snake numbers up on the island. How up are these numbers you ask? Well the answer to how many snakes there are is, ”There are – enough,’ To be specific; There is one poisonous Golden Lancehead pit-viper in every square metre of the island. You are constantly at most, one metre from death. Wonderful.
It will be of no surprise that this island has garnered for itself a fearsome reputation for being – inhospitable – to its guests. It has such a nasty track record in fact, that the only way to legally approach the island is to be deposited over 100m from the shore by the Navy and then paddle the rest of the way all on your lonesome because the Navy dare not get any closer.
The residents of São Paulo love nothing more than bringing up this nasty track record and telling all whom will listen the grisly and gruesome tales of the island. This first one involves a fisherman.
One day a foolish fisherman sails past the island and becomes hungry, he sees the verdant Queimada Grande and heads for it. Upon reaching the island he climbs up the rocky wall of razor-sharp barnacles that replace beaches on the island. Once at the top he goes on his way, flitting to and fro, picking bananas from the trees with wild abandon.
Then snakes happened.
He was bitten and suddenly afraid. After promptly dropping most of his bananas he turned and ran back to the boat, setting briskly off in any direction that contained less snake. He later succumbed to the poison and was found several days later, adrift in his boat. His corpse lying in a pool of its own blood.
The second story is about the last inhabitants of the island; the lighthouse keeper and his family. All was as good-as-good-can-be on the island… until the snakes. A window was left ajar and the snakes poured in, swiftly proceeding to attack the lighthouse keeper, his wife and their three children. In the heat of the moment they came up with a plan. I can tell you now, it was not a good one.
Children in arms the family burst out of the lighthouse and made a mad dash through the jungle, in a desperate bid to reach their boat and escape. Unfortunately, this being the Ilha da Queimada Grande there were snakes. One in the branches overhead lunged and bit one member of the family, then more and more snakes appeared and they did what they do best. No-one survived and there have been no more lighthouse keepers since the incident.
That was the Ilha da Queimada Grande, the verdant green tropical Brazilian Isle of Snakes. A last wild refuge in an ever more concrete world. A wonderful holiday destination if you do not mind the constant threat of death by painful poison. A most peculiar place indeed.