June 23, 2014
Google Street View Goes To 'The Most Desolate Place On Earth,' Hashima Island

Ever consider a vacation to somewhere incredibly depressing? I may know just the spot, but you have to go there on Google Street View.

The Google Street View team went to the Hashima Island off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan. The island is described as "the most desolate place on Earth" because of its haunting abandoned concrete apartments and thick sea wall.

Hashima Island was originally a coal mining facility from 1887 until its closing in 1974. As the Street View shows, it retains the structures from that period in a state of decay.

It has another colorful nickname "Battle Ship Island," directly translated from the Japanese Gunkanjima. The nickname comes from the island's giant sea walls that creates a resemblance to Tosa, a Japanese battleship.

Tetanus and the smell of fungus linger on as ghosts of Japan's rapid industrialization, making it a fascinating tourist spot, even if just virtually on Google.

Battle Ship Island
Girl standing on Battle Ship Island

But despite the obvious appeal, visitors were not allowed on the island until 2005 when journalists were permitted to take the first pictures.

In 2009, it was opened for tourists. Nevertheless, the imminent threat of a building collapsing on someone's head continues to be an obstacle to opening the entire island to visitors. Through Google Street View you can explore free from catastrophic injury.

Hashima Island
Tourists visiting the most desolate place on Earth

A dark history for a dark location.

Before considering your Google Street View vacation, be warned this place's dreadful appearance hides an even more appalling past.

In 2008, Battleship island applied to get a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage register; however, a full history would require remembering its part in World War 2. At that time, as many as 800 forced laborers from Korea were sent to work in the island's mines.

The pits reach a depth of 1000 meters, where sea water regularly seeps in, exposing workers to constant skin infections.

Survivors report the conditions were horrific, with toxic gases and cave-ins maintaining an unsightly fatality rate.

Those caught trying to escape were subjected to extreme torture.

Battle Ship Island
Aerial View

This place maintains its evil image, even in the films.

Google Street View isn't the first glimpse of Battle Island for avid movie goers.

This strange location was the inspiration for the hideout of James Bond villain Silva (Javier Bardem) in the movie Skyfall. Although filming could not take place there, the scenery was recreated for the movie.

Google Street View, also home to many other World War 2 sites, may be the only safe way to travel to much of this eerie place.

(Image Source: Jordy Meow/Wikimedia Commons)