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The Disappearing Sea

November 23, 2014 1 comment

Over one hundred ships are mysteriously abandoned in this desert in central Asia. You rub your eyes, but it’s not an optical illusion; no water as far as the eye can see. This desert is like any other, aside from the empty landlocked fishing ports, rusted ships frozen in sand, and former island with abandoned biological weapon facility (does your desert not have that?)

Actually, fifty years ago this “desert” wasn’t a desert at all. It was the fourth-largest lake in the world and supported a fishing industry that produced 50,000 tons of catch and fed over 100,000 people across nine countries. But after five decades of abuse, the ecosystem collapsed and the water retreated. Entire cities watched their economies vanish as the ships ran aground. Then the residents fled.

Today the Aral Sea has lost 85% of its volume. In its place: A toxic and unforgiving new desert.

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Nothing Goes Wrong on Palmerston Island

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This New Zealand protectorate is one of the most isolated communities in the world. Palmerston Island is the westernmost islet of a coral atoll belonging to the Cook Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Just sixty two people – all from the same bloodline – occupy the remote island, which sits approximately 2,000 miles (3,200 km) northeast of New Zealand and 2,850 miles (4,590 km) southwest of Hawaii.

While the enclave is an island utopia, paradise comes at a cost: Palmerston lacks an airport, gas station, grocer, and hospital. There are no cars, marinas, hotels, or restaurants. Yet despite this lack of amenities, one family has managed to prosper on the island for over one hundred and fifty years. Read more…

Buried from the public: Hart Island, New York

September 20, 2014 47 comments

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At first glance this modest island in New York appears unremarkable. The 131-acre dark speck of land has crumbling buildings, is off-limits to the public, and has not been occupied for the last forty years. Area residents might know of Long Island Sound’s Hart Island, but few are familiar with its long-standing mission as the largest – and least visited – burial ground in the United States.

For one hundred and fifty years the island has also been home to a prisoner of war camp, an insane asylum, a quarantine facility, a tuberculosis sanatorium, a boy’s reformatory, a disciplinary barracks, a Nike Ajax missile base, and a narcotics rehabilitation center. Read more…

Stately in Abandonment: Witley Court

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During its heyday Witley Court was one of Europe’s most lavish Victorian estates. An iconic portico and timeless fountain – both penned by famed designers – are hallmarks of this West Midlands treasure. Nearly one hundred were on staff, and for centuries it served as a residence for British Lords who often entertained royalty.

However an early twentieth-century fire ravaged the building, and a prohibitive cost to rebuild forced the owners to abandon the home. It wasn’t until decades later the derelict building was rescued by a preservation commission, and today it stands as the grandest Victorian manor in arrested decay.

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