Not everywhere is a place you can live and expect to, well, keep living. Can’t live at the bottom of the sea or the polar ice caps or outer space without some serious technological assistance. But there are plenty of other places on our own planet that are beautiful and strange and otherworldly… that want to kill you dead.
Say you’re trekking through coastal northern Canada for some reason. You’re freezing and long for warmth when, off in the distance, smoke! You think it’s a campfire or something, so you rush to get warm.
But it’s no campfire. The hills themselves are burning and have been for centuries and will be for centuries more. The sulfur in the hills ignites when exposed to air and makes any nearby pools of water super acidic, so it’s a smoldering hellscape. This place wants you dead.
So maybe instead of some place cold, Arctic, and acidic, try hot, tropical, and alkaline? Okay, if you insist…
Is this what you had in mind? Lake Natron is a soda lake (not the kind you have to sacrifice Yoshi for) that’s a toasty 120 degrees and a caustic pH above 12. And if despite that you think about taking a dip anyway, you’ll turn to stone! Well, not quite, but you definitely shouldn’t. This place is more for the cyanobacteria that make the lake so red and for the lesser flamingos that eat them. Not you. This lake wants you dead.
Prefer acid to alkaline after all then? Then take a hop across the Indian Ocean to…
Does this Indonesian volcano have actual blue lava and a cool turquoise lake? Got to check that out!
Or not. The turquoise lake is more acidic than your car battery and its fumes have been known to kill birds midflight. And that blue lava is actually just blue flames from ignited liquid sulfur. Amazing! Less so, however, for the sulfur miners who toil up there and breathe the fumes every day for low wages, leading to serious respiratory problems. Not a place people should be working without protection and better pay! Or just at all perhaps. Because this place wants you dead.
Want to head back north to cooler places? Okay…
How about a nice boat ride around some Scottish islands? What could go wrong…?
Except for a big ass whirlpool from which there is no escape! The formation of the underwater rocks jutting out from the two nearby islands causes this ferocious maelstrom that will devour you without a second thought. It even tried to eat George Orwell while he was working on “1984”. Was this attempt on the author’s life politically motivated? The world may never know. All I can say is that this Scottish strait wants you dead.
Will sailing across the Atlantic save you?
Nope. If Corryvreckan doesn’t get you on one side of the Atlantic, Old Sow will on the other, and it’ll make squealing pig noises at you for good measure. Just when you thought it was safe to sail around in your little boat in the waters off Maine and New Brunswick… Seemingly innocent locales that totally want you dead.
Better find some land…
Ilha de Queimada Grande
Ah, this looks nice. It’s an island off the Brazilian coast, near Sao Paulo. No underwater death tornadoes. No acid death lakes. Perfect. Doesn’t seem to be anyone here either. Wait, did something just move? Did something else just move?
Oh, shit, this island is full of venomous golden lancehead pit vipers! So that’s why this place is also called Snake Island and the Brazilian Navy is yelling at you to leave. These snakes got isolated here and evolved to be even more deadly as they mostly subsist on birds that unwittingly land there. And you. This island and its slithering denizens want you dead.
Get to the mainland and across the continent to the Amazon. Nothing will get you there…
Except the remote stretch of river that is actually boiling! What, didn’t you see the TED talk, where among other things the guy goes into disturbing detail at how the river cooks frogs alive? It’s not even because it’s near a volcano as might normally be the case. It’s just sitting on a hydrothermal hot spot. The river hangs around 120 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and is waiting for you to stumble on the unexpectedly hot riverbank and plunge right in to be hard boiled in seconds. This river wants you dead.
Maybe head north to the Caribbean and take a nice mountain hike- Oh, God, this lake is boiling, too! This one is sitting in a fumarole, being heated to its perpetual boil by magma sitting under it and refilled periodically by rain and some nearby streams. Don’t get too close. That mountain lake doing its spot-on boiling pot impression wants you dead.
And now it’s a lake that is both boiling and super acidic! It’s a crater lake on Poas Volcano in Costa Rica, whose harsh environment is home to one, count them, ONE species of super badass microorganism that just might also survive on Mars theoretically. But you know what can’t survive? You. This boiling acid lake will randomly shoot scalding steam vents at passersby, not to mention whatever mischief the volcano itself might also do. This volcanic crater wants you dead.
Enough of all this. Just go to a nice botanical garden run by a duchess, look at the plants, and just chill. Take a walk. Look at the flowers. Maybe sniff one… And now you’re sick. Shit, this is the Alnwick Poison Garden! Duchess of Northumberland got that title and the land a couple decades ago, and thought, why have some run of the mill botanical garden? Let’s have a garden full of murder plants, such as strychnine and hemlock and nightshade. Sure, admire the castle and the grounds on a lovely day. And the plants that want you dead.
Cave of the Crystals
How about a nice cave? That must be okay, right? A cave which, holy fuck, is full of giant crystals! Normally the cave is full of water at just the right temperature and mineral composition to allow these big beams of selenite to very gradually grow over the millennia, even housing microorganisms that exist only inside the crystals somehow. With the water drained, it’s totally safe right? No, you need a special refrigerated suit to go in, and even then, only for a little while. It’s to protect the fragile normally isolated area, sure, but also, it’s 136 degrees Fahrenheit in there at near 100% humidity, which doesn’t bode well for those who like to breathe. The crystals themselves may not have strong feelings either way, but the cave wants you dead.
Tsingy de Bemaraha
Back outside and way over to Madagascar. “Tsingy” is a Malagasy term so concisely meaning “place where one cannot walk barefoot”. Why is it called that? Oh, maybe just… all the big ass limestone spikes sticking out everywhere that are sharp as knives and will cut you. Even the park itself is only accessible for part of the year and involves two river crossings, and, by the way, the rivers are full of crocodiles. Everything about this place wants you dead.
Frying Pan Lake
Oh, it’s a lake called frying pan. Surely it must be a nice refreshing not at all deadly location- Of course it’s a hot as hell most definitely deadly location! It’s the world’s largest hot spring, a volcanic fumarole formed by the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera hosting ever more hot water and a low pH and some ridiculous microorganisms that enjoy that kind of thing for some reason. Why would a place called Frying Pan Lake want you anything other than dead?
Want to go even hotter? How about the hottest and driest place on earth? And extremely seismically active. Dallol is full of colorful but toxic hot springs, and Erta Ale has a great big lava lake. And lots of salt pans. Some people do live there, specifically the Afar people who have been there since always and are well adapted. In fact, this area just might be where we all got started, as it’s where numerous important early hominin specimens were dug up. But now? It just wants you dead.
This lake isn’t boiling. No wildly high or low pH. There’s life in it. Seems like a normal lake. So, wait, what’s the catch? One night in August 1986, the lake exploded. Specifically, in its lower depths it was building up high concentrations of carbon dioxide because, like many other items on this list, it’s sitting on a volcano. Normally the upper layers keep the CO2 capped, but on this night, something disturbed it (no one knows how or what), and the gas burst out of the lake, and suffocated over 1,700 people in the vicinity. There have been pipes placed in the lake since to release the carbon dioxide in smaller safer doses to prevent it from happening again, hopefully. Also, the natural dam holding the lake in place is in bad shape, and if it fails, then the lake would not only release another gas attack but flood much of the surrounding area. It’s not boiling or battery acid, but it’s probably got the highest death toll of anything on this list, and you don’t even need to fall in or anything. You just have to be near it at the wrong time.
Speaking of gas attacks, the site of World War I’s Battle of Verdun is still off limits over 100 years and another damn world war later. The land was so decimated in the attacks that no one could live there anymore. Even now, there’s still unexploded ordnance that could go off on some unsuspecting wanderer, who doesn’t have any numbers and a grid to clue them in as to where these might be. Some of these are even gas shells. Even a century after it ended, World War I still wants you dead.
Enough of everything. Try a walk in the woods in Yorkshire. Can you just take a nice walk through the woods in Yorkshire? Sure. Lovely woods. Oh, look, even a gentle creek. Not boiling? Not battery acid? Not planning to launch a gas attack? No? Good. Maybe this is safe after all. Maybe you can even jump across the water.
Except this is the Bolton Strid, which just a little upstream was a much wider river that has now flipped over on its side. You jump over but don’t make it and slip into the water. Which, lo and behold, is no harmless brook but deceptive watery trap that pretends it doesn’t want to eat you but it so totally wants to eat you. And it has.
You are now dead.
All images are from Wikimedia Commons and link back to their pages there.
Post title shamelessly stolen from Trigger Happy TV.