You're Not Allowed to Go to this Island Overrun with Snakes

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iStock

Brazilians quibble over whether there are five venomous golden lancehead snakes per square meter on Ilha da Queimada Grande or just one. Either way, it's the highest density of snakes on the planet—far too many to make the island, located around 90 miles off the São Paulo coast, safe for anyone except experts to visit.

The snakes evolved their legendary venom after the island was isolated from the mainland around 11,000 years ago. The lanceheads that were trapped on what became known as Snake Island flourished in the absence of predators but were soon starved for available prey. Since the spit of land serves as a stopover point for migratory birds, the snakes soon began hunting in the treetops. But to do so, they needed fast-acting venom. As Smithsonian explains:

Often, snakes stalk their prey, bite and wait for the venom to do its work before tracking the prey down again. But the golden lancehead vipers can't track the birds they bite—so instead they evolved incredibly potent and efficient venom three to five times stronger than any mainland snake's—capable of killing most prey (and melting human flesh) almost instantly.

After a series of horror stories emerged from the island—such as the last lighthouse keeper's family to live there being killed by snakes after leaving a window open—the Brazilian government began strictly controlling visits. No one is allowed to even stop at the island without express permission to do so. And even on approved visits, like to maintain the lighthouse (which has been automated since that family's deaths in the 1920s) or conduct scientific research, a doctor must be present.

But just because there are laws against visiting Ilha da Queimada Grande unsupervised doesn't mean there aren't people who go anyway. You would think the snakes would be sufficient deterrent but, in fact, they're the source of the attraction. The island is the only place in the world where the golden lanceheads live, and with strict regulations limiting research, the demand from scientists and animal collectors means that a single snake can fetch $10,000 to $30,000 on the black market.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Welcome to Cool, California. Population: 2520

Alan Levine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Alan Levine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

It’s not hard to find U.S. towns with some pretty weird (and sometimes depressing) names, so we shouldn't be surprised that people have the option of settling in the tiny town of Cool, California.

Initially named Cave Valley, due to the limestone formations nearby, the town popped up around 1849 during the California Gold Rush. The population eventually grew to 4100 people.

It's unclear when the town went from Cave Valley to being Cool. One legend suggests that a beatnik named Todd Hausman bequeathed the name after passing through in the 1950s, but the veracity of that story is doubtful since the Cool Post Office was founded as early as 1885. According to Condé Nast Traveler, records show that a reverend named Peter Y. Cool came out to pan gold and settled in the town in 1850, possibly serving as the source of the change.

Whatever the origin of its name, the town of Cool has ample branding opportunities. There’s the Cool Grocery Store and the Cool Beerwerks brewery and restaurant, which specializes in Hawaiian-Japanese fusion cuisine. Cool has held the Way Too Cool 50K Endurance Run every year since 1990.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

A Picturesque Region of Southern Italy Wants to Pay People $770 a Month to Move There

Freeartist/iStock via Getty Images
Freeartist/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve been toying with the idea of moving to southern Europe and opening a quaint inn ever since you first saw Mamma Mia! in 2008, it’s time to dust off your overalls and get packing. Molise, Italy, will pay you about $770 each month for three years if you promise to establish a business in one of its underpopulated villages.

The campaign aims to bolster Italy’s population numbers and provide areas with the culture, commerce, and infrastructure needed to keep those numbers up. “If we had offered funding, it would have been yet another charity gesture,” Molise president Donato Toma told The Guardian. “We wanted people to invest here … It’s a way to breathe life into our towns while also increasing the population.”

The government will, however, supplement the newcomer program with actual funding—about $11,000—for participating villages, which must have fewer than 2000 residents. And, if an ABBA-inspired inn isn’t the name of your game, Toma also suggested a bakery, a stationery shop, or a restaurant.

Molise, a mountainous region southeast of Rome, boasts spectacular cliffside views, sweeping olive groves, and bucolic tranquility. Why, then, aren’t people clamoring to move there for free? Partially because Italy is currently enduring a nationwide population crisis that has hit Molise especially hard.

According to the Italian National Institute of Statistics, the region has lost 9000 residents since 2014, and 2800 of those were from last year alone. The Guardian explains that young people are seeking job opportunities elsewhere in Europe, and those who stay aren’t starting families. Last year, for example, nine of Molise’s towns had no new births to report. Overall, Italy’s population of resident citizens fell by 677,000 between 2014 and 2018, and it’s second only to Japan on the list of countries with the largest proportion of senior citizens.

Enticing prospective residents with small salaries is only one method of combating the plummeting population numbers. The mayor of Sutera, in Sicily, has offered his empty estates to Libyan asylum seekers, while Sambuca, also in Sicily, is selling abandoned houses for about a dollar.

[h/t The Guardian]

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