You're Not Allowed to Go to this Island Overrun with Snakes

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iStock

Brazilians quibble over whether there are five venomous golden lancehead snakes per square meter on Ilha da Queimada Grande or just one. Either way, it's the highest density of snakes on the planet—far too many to make the island, located around 90 miles off the São Paulo coast, safe for anyone except experts to visit.

The snakes evolved their legendary venom after the island was isolated from the mainland around 11,000 years ago. The lanceheads that were trapped on what became known as Snake Island flourished in the absence of predators but were soon starved for available prey. Since the spit of land serves as a stopover point for migratory birds, the snakes soon began hunting in the treetops. But to do so, they needed fast-acting venom. As Smithsonian explains:

Often, snakes stalk their prey, bite and wait for the venom to do its work before tracking the prey down again. But the golden lancehead vipers can't track the birds they bite—so instead they evolved incredibly potent and efficient venom three to five times stronger than any mainland snake's—capable of killing most prey (and melting human flesh) almost instantly.

After a series of horror stories emerged from the island—such as the last lighthouse keeper's family to live there being killed by snakes after leaving a window open—the Brazilian government began strictly controlling visits. No one is allowed to even stop at the island without express permission to do so. And even on approved visits, like to maintain the lighthouse (which has been automated since that family's deaths in the 1920s) or conduct scientific research, a doctor must be present.

But just because there are laws against visiting Ilha da Queimada Grande unsupervised doesn't mean there aren't people who go anyway. You would think the snakes would be sufficient deterrent but, in fact, they're the source of the attraction. The island is the only place in the world where the golden lanceheads live, and with strict regulations limiting research, the demand from scientists and animal collectors means that a single snake can fetch $10,000 to $30,000 on the black market.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Learn Python From Home for Just $50

Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels.com
Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels.com

It's difficult to think of a hobby or job that doesn’t involve some element of coding in its execution. Are you an Instagram enthusiast? Coding and algorithms are what bring your friends' posts to your feed. Can’t get enough Mental Floss? Coding brings the entire site to life on your desktop and mobile screens. Even sorting through playlists on Spotify uses coding. If you're tired of playing catch-up with all the latest coding techniques and principles, the 2020 Python Programming Certification Bundle is on sale for $49.99 to teach you to code, challenge your brain, and boost your resume to get your dream job.

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The 10 Best Beaches in America, According to Dr. Beach

Grayton Beach? More like Blue-Ton Beach.
Grayton Beach? More like Blue-Ton Beach.
Jacob Boomsma/iStock via Getty Images

When searching for the perfect stretch of beach to laze away your vacation days, there are quite a few factors to consider. Some, like water clarity or sand texture, are more obvious than others; for example, you might not realize how much noise pollution a nearby highway generates until you’re already on the beach.

To help you choose your next seaside getaway, Florida International University coastal research professor Stephen P. Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach,” has released his annual list of the top 10 beaches in the U.S. Based on 50 criteria, ranging from the beach’s width at low tide to the presence of jellyfish, the data reveals the Florida Panhandle is home to the best beach in the country. Grayton Beach State Park boasts exceptionally fine, white sand known as “sugar sand”; shallow, warm water with calm waves; and a 2000-acre nature park with rare coastal dune lakes and a hiking trail. It wasn’t the only Florida beach to make the list—Caladesi Island State Park, off the coast of Dunedin and Clearwater, came in at number six.

North Carolina’s Outer Banks islands were well-represented, too, with Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach and Buxton’s Lighthouse Beach taking the second and fifth spots, respectively. Dr. Beach also bestowed top honors on two of Hawaii’s beaches: Oahu’s Duke Kahanamoku Beach and the Big Island’s Hapuna Beach State Park.

Even if you can’t make it as far as Florida or Hawaii, Dr. Beach’s metrics can help you decide what’s important to you when it comes to choosing the best beach closer to home. Maybe you’re not bothered by online reviews that warn about giant waves at a certain beach, but you’re unwilling to budge about overcrowding.

The list of criteria isn’t the only way that Dr. Beach is helping beachgoers plan the best, safest summer vacation possible—he’s also compiled a few handy tips for heading to the beach during the coronavirus pandemic. First and foremost, you should check the beach’s rules before you go; some places are only open for exercise, while others have made masks mandatory (even if yours doesn’t require a mask, however, you should still wear one). Dr. Beach also recommends having a backup plan, just in case your ideal beach hits capacity before you get there.

See the full list of top 10 beaches below, and find out more about them here.

  1. Grayton Beach State Park // Florida Panhandle
  1. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach // Ocracoke, North Carolina
  1. Coopers Beach // Southampton, New York
  1. Duke Kahanamoku Beach // Oahu, Hawaii
  1. Lighthouse Beach // Buxton, North Carolina 
  1. Caladesi Island State Park // Dunedin, Florida
  1. Hapuna Beach State Park // Big Island, Hawaii
  1. Coast Guard Beach // Cape Cod, Massachusetts
  1. Coronado Beach // San Diego, California
  1. Beachwalker Park // Kiawah Island, South Carolina