We tend to forget that nature doesn’t need us to survive — it’s the other way around. We utilize our own knowledge and resources to construct cities and structures assuming that they will be around forever. Yet, if these structures aren’t given any attention nature will slowly but surely take them back, even to the point that nobody would believe they were ever there. From abandoned islands to haunted cemeteries, here are some of the most interesting places that are being taken back by nature.
Old Mining Town: Kolmanskop, Nambia
Named after the transport driver Johny Coleman, the now-ghost town of Kolmancop in the Namib Desert was once a booming diamond mining settlement. In 1908, worker Zacharias Lewala discovered a diamond and the German government declared the area to be theirs. They then began a settlement in the architectural style of a German town with establishments such as a hospital, power station, school, theatre, casino, and even established the first tram in Africa. However, after the start of World War I, the town began to decline after diamonds became more and more sparse. The town was eventually abandoned and left for the desert to take over. For those permitted to visit, it is now a popular tourist destination with structures half-filled with sand.
Abandoned Fishing Village: Hatou Wan, China
Hatou Wan Village is located on an island in the mouth of the Yangtze River off of the coast of China. The island, known as Gouqi Island, is one of 394 islands that make up the Zhoushan Archipelago. At its height, Hatou Wan was a bustling fishing village, home to over 2,000 fishermen, that was still in use a little over 50 years ago. However, in the 1990s the residents began to move away until most if not all had left the island. This was due to the beginnings of the major urbanization of China which led to an inaccessibility of food, resources, education and other factors. Now, the entire village has been taken over by vegetation and has become a hotspot for tourists although some residents remain there today.
Bunny Island: Okunoshima Island, Japan
Japan’s Okunoshima Island was once the location of a chemical weapons manufacturing site. However, after World War II, the plant was shut down and the island was left uninhabited except for its crumbling structures and rabbits. Yes, rabbits. The island has become overrun by rabbits and has even earned the nickname “Rabbit Island”. Although the story of how all of these rabbits ended up on the island is unclear, there are some interesting theories. Many believe that they were pets of employees that were let loose upon abandonment of the island, while others claim they were test subjects. There are now hundreds of thousands of these rabbits roaming the island which has become a tourist attraction along with the Poisonous Gas Museum.
Abandoned Shopping Mall: Bangkok, Thailand
The New World Mall was built in 1980 on Bang Lam Pu Junction in Bangkok’s Old Town. The company that constructed the mall was discovered to have gone against building regulations when they built the 11-story complex seven stories taller than what was approved. Then all was closed in 1997, and a fire in 1999 resulted in the loss of the roof. Rainwater slowly began to fill the structure which eventually led to a massive mosquito problem. The locals introduced freshwater tilapia fish into the water to eat the insects, thus creating a massive fish pond. Now, the urban pond has become a popular but lesser-known tourist attraction with vendors all around the area selling fish food for visitors to buy and feed to the fish.
Mount Moriah Cemetary: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mount Moriah Cemetary is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was incorporated in 1855 and established in an act by the Pennsylvania Parliament. The cemetery was originally 54 acres, fit the “rural ideal” style, and was accessible by streetcar. Over time, the cemetery grew significantly in size to around 380 acres. However, eventually, the upkeep became too much to handle, and the cemetery became engulfed in shrubbery. For a while, the cemetery’s association attempted to keep nature at bay but the final member passed away in 2004 and the cemetery was officially closed in 2011. Now, Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetary are making an effort to clean up the cemetery and uncover many of the lost graves.
The SS Ayrfield: Sydney, Australia
In Homebush Bay, west of Sydney, Australia, lies the remains of the decommissioned ship SS Ayrfield. Built in 1911, the ship was initially launched as the SS Corrimal in the UK and weighed 1,140 tons. It was then registered in 1912 in Sydney as the SS Ayrfield to be used as stream collier transporting supplies to American troops in the Pacific region during World War II. Then, in 1972, the ship was retired and sent to the Homebush Bay which was a ship-breaking yard. Here, the Ayrfield sat and eventually began to come to life. Now, it has become almost completely engulfed by the surrounding nature as a duality of nature and machine.
Ross Island: Port Blair Islands, India
Named after surveyor Sir Daniel Ross, Ross Island is a part of the Port Blair Islands in India. In 1887, under the British administration, it was colonized it in order to set up a jail and penal location. The island was under British rule until 1942 until Japanese troops invaded and took control of Ross and the surrounding islands. After World War II and India’s independence from Britain, the island was then given back to the Indian government. The island remained unoccupied until 1979 when it was given to the Indian Navy. The Navy then created a small base named INS Jarawa. Although the island is now open to visitors and has small attractions, what was left behind has become part of the island, with the structures acting as supports for roots and the forest to grow on.
Año Nuevo Light Station: Northern California
Año Nuevo Island is a small island located off of the coast of Northern California between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. As part of the island, a light station was constructed and operated between 1872 and 1948. Built after a series of catastrophic shipwrecks, it helped to guide ships along the Northern California coast. Pictured above is an image of the keepers dwelling constructed in 1906. Since its abandonment, it has become a breeding ground for northern elephant seals and the endangered Stellar sea lion. It is also the habitat for many various seabirds. Due to the vast number of sea lions, it has also been a hot spot for great white sharks which are now all protected by the state.
London’s Millionaire Mansions
On London’s prestigious “Billionaires Row,” almost a third of the mansions are completely empty. The row of houses is located on The Bishops Avenue in north London, which was voted the second most expensive street in Britain in 2014. The empty buildings are in a row of 10 monstrous houses that are estimated to be worth around $100 million. For the most part, the houses have remained uninhabited since their sale between 1989 and 1993 by people who are believed to be members of the Saudi royal family. Because of the condition of the houses, neighbors have complained that now they live in one of the richest “wastelands” in the world. Some of the houses are in such bad condition that they have become homes for animals and are essentially passed the point of repair.
Holland Island: Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Holland Island was named after colonist Daniel Holland, who purchased the land from the Dorchester County Sheriff in the 1600s. By the 1850s, there was an established fishing and farming community there. By 1910, there were around 360 residents which made it one of the most bustling islands in the Chesapeake Bay. Holland Island had over 70 homes and other establishments including its own baseball team, post office, school, and doctor. The island was mostly supported by the oyster, fishing, and crabbing industry. Unfortunately, in 1914, the wind and seawater began to erode the most populated area of the island and many were forced to move to the mainland. The last family left in 1918 and the once-thriving island was left to the sea.
Abandoned Cottages: Suomusjärvi, Finland
While visiting his family’s summer house in the rural woods of Suomusjärvi, Finland, amateur photographer Kai Fagerström stumbled upon something unexpected. While walking through the forest, he discovered some abandoned structures that looked to be a series of cabins. It is assumed that the previous owner had either abandoned the property or had passed away and left the property uninhabited. While at first he figured that the buildings were just unkempt and overgrown with foliage, Fagerström discovered that they had all been transformed into homes for the surrounding wildlife. Through a series of pictures, he demonstrates how different animals utilize different spaces of the structures and live in relative harmony, clearly thankful for their new homes.
Aral Desert: Khazakstan/Uzbekistan
What was once the Aral Sea has quickly become the Aral Desert. Lying between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, it was formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 26,300 square miles. Yet, it began shrinking in the 1850s and by the 1960s, the shrinking had accelerated drastically. This is partially blamed on the Soviet irrigation projects, and by 1977, the lake was 10% of its original size. This caused a splitting of the lake into four parts and the creation of deserts between them. This phenomenon has been described as “one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters.” We can see just how rapidly the shrinking occurred… they weren’t even able to move the ships in time which have now become part of the desert.
Bennett College: Millbrook, New York
Founded in 1890 by May F. Bennett, Bennett College was a women’s college that was established in Millbrook, New York. By 1907, the school had 120 students and 30 faculty members. Although it was originally the Bennett School for Girls including four years of high school and two years of higher education, it was eventually used as only a junior college. Bennett became a trademark school for wealthy American families who attended Bennett generation after generation. however, in the 1970s, the school suffered from the advance of coed education. After some attempts to save the school, it eventually closed for good in 1978 and the campus was abandoned.
Abandoned Olympic Venue: Sarajevo
In 1984, Sarajevo proudly hosted the Winter Olympics. However, there was a gruesome and devastating conflict between 1992 and 1995 that left the arena in ruins. This was the Siege of Sarajevo, the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare. With over 10,000 left dead, the city was turned into a battlefield along with the remains of the Olympic venue. The bobsled tracks became defense lines and other structures battlements for warfare. Damage from the fighting can still be witnessed today as much of the venue remains untouched. There are still landmines scattered about the unused ski jumps and even an overgrown makeshift cemetery in the middle of the empty arena.
Renaissance Faire: Fredericksburg, Virginia
Built in the Virginia wilderness, the Virginia Renaissance Faire was in operation between 1996 to 1999. It was built in detail to replicate a medieval feudal port. Structures were erected using a Medieval architectural style with a range of different buildings in order to make the scene as realistic as possible. There was even a replica sailing ship constructed and released onto the small pond in the lot. However, the wet climate and marshy landscape beat the festival’s structures as well as patrons. After two seasons, the renaissance fairgrounds moved, and this location was officially closed and taken over by the swamps. Now, it acts as a property for hunting and shooting and is otherwise off-limits.
Hasard Collaries: Cheratte Belgium
These coal mines in Belgium began construction in 1860. It was the first coal mine to be electrically powered in Belgium and at its height housed over 1500 miners. It was in the heart of the town of Charette and was one of the many mines in the region. The mine was officially closed in 1977 and for the most part has remained completely untouched aside from racketeers and adventurers that have broken into the area. It has now been designated as a Belgium protected landmark which is protected by a gate and signs but not much else. Since its closing, it has begun to deteriorate and the trees and brush have grown over the once productive industry.
Barnes Old Cemetary: London, England
Barnes Cemetery was first opened in 1854 after the land was bought by the Church of England. It was created in order to provide extra burial space for the people in the area after most of the churchyards had been filled up. It was well-used by distinguished Victorians and is covered with different monuments and statues. However, there are rumors about supernatural occurrences and hauntings such as the creature “Spring Heeled Jack” that surround the grave of Julia Martha Thomas after her infamous murder in 1879. In 1966 the cemetery was taken by the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames Council with the intention of turning it into a lawn cemetery. However, those plans fell through, and the graveyard was abandoned. Now, it is almost impossible to find or discover unless you know where to look because it is so overgrown.
Nuclear Disaster: Chyrnoble, Ukraine
Chernobyl was once an established city in Ukraine that had its beginnings back in 1193 as a hunting lodge. In the 1960s it became the site for the first Ukranian nuclear power station as part of an anti-ballistic missile early warning radar network. However, in 1986, disaster struck when the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant exploded. Everyone close to the area was forced to evacuate and abandon the city. A once-established and busy city was left completely empty. Now the city has become overgrown with plants and shrubbery, with animals coming to inhabit it from surrounding areas. It is estimated that more mammals now live there than when the city was being used.
Villa Epecuén: Buenos Aires, Argentina
The city of Via Epecuén, a village in the Buenos Aires province of Argentina, was originally developed in the early 1920s. It was accessible from Buenos Aires by train which helped turn it into a tourist destination for those who wanted to enjoy the waters of Lago Epecuén. During its heyday, it could accommodate over 5,000 visitors and was a rather popular destination. Then, on November 6, 1985, due to a rare weather pattern, a nearby dam broke as well as the dike protecting the village. At the time, there were over 280 business, lodges, hotels, and a human population of over 1,500. The city was abandoned and the waters eventually reached a peak of 33 feet and submerged the town. In 2009, a man named Pablo Novack returned to his home after it had been underwater for 25 years.
North Brother Island: Bronx, New York
Located on the East River between the Bronx and Rikers sits the totally abandoned North Brother Island. The island became inhabited in 1885 when the city of New York purchased the land to establish a hospital for people suffering from contagious diseases. The hospital was eventually closed after the General Slocum steamship caught fire on the island’s shore, causing the largest loss of life in New York history until the September 11 attacks. After World War II, the island was reopened and used for veteran housing and later as a treatment facility for recovering drug addicts. However, in 1963 it officially closed and was marked as off-limits to the public as nature took its course. You can see the island from Manhattan as it slowly absorbed by the surrounding nature.