BRAZIL, ATLANTIC OCEAN
About 20 miles off the coast of Brazil lies an island called Ilha da Queimada Grande, which is home to thousands of golden lancehead vipers: aggressive venomous snakes that can be up to 3 feet long (small photo).
WHERE CAN A SINGLE STEP BE FATAL?
He and his family had been warned… But one evening the air in the lighthouse had just gotten too stuffy. Once the lighthouse keeper and his wife put their three children to bed, he opened the window so at least a little of the Atlantic wind could flow into the building. A fatal mistake. A few hours later several snakes slither through the window and sneak into the beds of the five inhabitants— and bite them. Awakened by these painful bites, the family flees into the open air in a panic. But the snakes are everywhere, slithering out from the bushes and even falling out of the trees. All five of the family members die before reaching the beach. They’re not the first to lose their lives here. Queimada Grande, located 20 miles off the coast of the Brazilian mainland, is home to the golden lancehead viper— a very deadly species of snake. Lancehead venom is five times stronger than the venom of the other Brazilian snake species. Up to five of these snakes live on every square meter of the island, and experts think there may be 4,000 of them in total. They are the undisputed rulers of “Snake Island.” But how did this dominance come about? More than 10,000 years ago the island was still connected to the Brazilian mainland. Rising sea levels had cut off part of the coast, and the resident snakes remained on the island. Instead of gradually dying out they were able to adapt to the realities of the island by multiplying rapidly and developing venom deadly enough to kill migrating birds in seconds. Trespassing on this island is strictly prohibited, and only two groups of people are allowed to risk the potentially fatal voyage: researchers with a special permit and the Brazilian navy, members of which must take an annual trip to the island to service the lighthouse (which has been automated since the death of the last keeper).
24.4879° S 46.6742° W