Like moments frozen in time, thousands of abandoned towns and cities throughout the world now stand as both solemn and victorious reminders of a culture's past endeavors and visions for the future. War, superstition, famine, earthquakes, man-made disasters, volcanic eruption, shifting values, fire, disease, failed economy, and hurricanes have all played pivotal roles in reducing thriving, prosperous cities to mere memories and snapshots of what might have been.
Like moments frozen in time, thousands of abandoned towns and cities throughout the world now stand as both solemn and victorious reminders of a culture's past endeavors and visions for the future.
War, superstition, famine, earthquakes, man-made disasters, volcanic eruption, shifting values, fire, disease, failed economy, and hurricanes have all played pivotal roles in reducing thriving, prosperous cities to mere memories and snapshots of what might have been.
From Japan to Australia, Italy to Russia, here are ten that still speak loudly of their often fascinating pasts and of the people who once called them home.
> Hashima Island (Ghost Island/Gunkanjima), Nagasaki, Japan: Abandoned 1974
At its peak, the 15 acre island of Hashima reached a population over 5000--becoming the most densely populated community in the world. Built by the Mitsubishi Corporation during Japan’s industrial revolution, the city focused around the large coal deposits below the ocean floor. Becoming home to some of Japan's first high-rise concrete buildings, for almost a century the mining industry brought prosperity to the island. In the late 1960s, however, Hashima's fortunes started to dwindle when petroleum use replaced coal. On January 15, 1974, the company officially announced the closing of the mine, with the last resident boarding the ship for Nagasaki on April 20, 1974. In 2009, the island was opened to tourists.
> Pyramiden, Norway: Abandoned 1991
One of four mining settlements on the Svalbard archipelago established in 1910 by Sweden and then sold to Russia in 1927, Pyramiden once had a population of over 1,000 people. In 1997 an explosion in the near-by Barentsburg mine resulted in the death of 23 miners. Deciding that mining in Pyramiden was no longer sustainable, the decision was made to cease operations. A few days later, workers were given a few hours to pack their bags and leave. Eerie reminders of that hasty departure are visible all around: an abandoned miner's cart, two petrol pumps, dried plants on window sills, books still on the library shelves.
> Wittenoom, Australia: Abandoned late 1960s
Once home to 20,000 people in its mining heyday, the asbestos mining town of Wittenoom shut down after the health risks of asbestos became clear in the 1960s, with 1,000 of its residents dying from asbestos-related illnesses. Aside from the 8 people who still live there today, the remaining residents left before the close in the 1960s. Even today, the city is still littered with blue asbestos fibers.
> Agdam (Aghdam), Azerbaijan: Abandoned 1993
Once a thriving city of 150,000 people, Agdam was seized in 1993 during the Nagorno Karabakh war. Although the city was never the setting of battle, it fell victim to vandalism under Armenian occupation. The buildings are now gutted and empty, with only the graffiti-covered mosque remaining intact. Agdam residents have moved to other areas of Azerbaijan, as well as into Iran.
> Kadykchan, Russia: Abandoned 1990s
Once a tin mining town of 12,000 people, the metropolis known as “The City of Broken Dreams,” now sets desolate. One of the many small Russian cities that fell into ruin when the Soviet Union collapsed, residents were forced to move to gain access to services like running water, schools, and medical care. Mass transported by the state over a period of just two weeks, residents were in such a hurry that they were forced to leave many of their belongings behind. You can still see deteriorating toys, books, clothing and other objects throughout the empty city.
> Balestrino, Italy: Abandoned 1953
While it is uncertain when the town of Balestrino was established, records date back to before the 11th century when Balestrino was owned by the Benedictine abbey of San Pietro dei Monti. During the mid-19th century the population was around 800-850, primarily, generations of olive farmers. In the late 19th century, however, the north-west coast of Italy was struck by numerous earthquakes, one of which destroyed several near-by villages. Finally, in 1953 the town was abandoned due to geological instability, with residents moving to safer ground to the west.
> Deception Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula: Abandoned 1969
One of the region’s only safe harbors, Deception Island was once the site of several research stations, whaling operations, and a sizable resident population. Although it is well-known as a safe port in a storm, it is also home to an active volcano, which caused serious damage to the local scientific stations in 1967 and again in 1969. The major decline in the use of whale oil in recent decades, coupled with the next anticipated volcanic eruption, Deception Island has become an increasingly unpopular location. While both Spain and Argentina still have summer-only research stations there, all residents abandoned the island in 1969.
> Varosha, Cyprus: Abandoned 1974
Prior to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, Varosha was the modern tourist area of Famagusta. With residents forced to flee during the invasion, the city has remained abandoned ever since, fenced off by Turkish military with entrance forbidden.
> Mandu, Madhya Pradesh: Abandoned early 1600s
Located south of Indore in the state of Madhya Pradesh, the ancient city of Mandu, which takes up a large plateau just above the Narmada River, was once the capital city of a northern Indian Muslim state, but was abandoned over 400 years ago. Home to an amazing array of ruins, including the Nil Kanth Palace and a beautiful mosque, today it is a prime tourist destination as well as an important pilgrimage point for devotees of the Hindu goddess Shiva.
> Yashima, Japan: Abandoned late 1980s
The site of a famous battle that took place on 22nd March 1185 during the Genpei War, it was decided in the 1980s that the plateau where Yashima now stands was an excellent place to encourage tourism, and so money was invested into development. Six hotels were built, as well as many parks and trails, as well as an aquarium. At some point, however, when developers didn’t see the expected influx of people, they realized that Yashima wasn’t an especially attractive location due to it setting at the edge of a rock quarry. With subsequent real-estate inflation, all the hotels and shops were forced to shut down, with no permanent residents ever investing.
Thumb image via: http://www.oddee.com/item_96462.aspx
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