If you think plans aren’t in place for the end of the world – you’re wrong.
A huge vault, carved into a mountainside in one of the most inhospitable places on earth, holds the key to human survival if a natural disaster ravaged earth’s population.
And this is just one of the globe’s most secret places which you can never visit, look at, or even know they exist.
From places so ancient, visitors are banned to doomsday communes designed to save the human race if the end of the world ever comes – you won’t find any of these spots in a travel book.
And in many cases, neither would you want to.
James Bond’s secret bunker
If James Bond author Ian Fleming designed a military base, Royal Air Force Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, would be it.
It looks like something from a science fiction novel, filled with white domes.
But that isn’t the weirdest thing about the facility, opened by the British War Office in 1954.
The site is believed to be home to the largest electronic monitoring system on the planet and is used to gather intelligence for both Britain and America.
It was originally opened to monitor the Soviet Union and was vital during the Cold War.
But the work of its 1,205 staff is now shrouded in mystery.
It was claimed, by researcher Dr Steve Schofield in 2012 that those working at the base had been “involved in drone attacks”, although this has never been confirmed.
RAF Menwith is also thought to have close ties with ECHELON, the global spy network dubbed Five Eyes and involving the UK, the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
ECHELON was created on the late 1960s to monitor communications coming from the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.
But since then it is thought to have evolved into a “global ssysrem for the interception of private and commercial communications”.
In other words – mass surrveillance.
So, it could be true that someone is always listening…
Secret cave that can feed the world – literally
We’ve all seen the films – the ones where the world is destroyed by a freak natural disaster.
But what if The Day After Tomorrow actually happened? How would the handful of people survive once the apocalpyse was over?
Well, it turns out plans have been in place for years to ensure humanity could continue to feed itself – and the secrets are locked away in a mountainside in one of the most isolated places on earth.
Every, single seed ever known to mankind is stored inside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.
It sounds like something from Star Trek but the giant cave – filled with 250million crop seeds – really does exist.
And it’s the most closely guarded – and secret – seed bank in the world.
Built to stand the test of time and located on a remote island half way between Norway and the North Pole – so not somewhere that’s easily accessible to say the least – it is the world’s largest collection of potential crops.
Opened in 2008 the vault has been described as the “ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply, offering options for future generations to overcome the challenges of climate change and population growth”.
It’s location was carefully chosen to ensure the seeds’ survival – even if something resembling the end of the world occurred.
It is covered in natural permafrost, which means the seeds will remain frozen – unless disaster strikes and they’re needed.
And while the entrance is visible, the vault itself it more than 100 metres inside the mountain, well above sea level – should the worst happen.
The Forbidden Isle and home to the real-life Family Robinson
It looks like the perfect tropical destination and the smallest of the populated islands in Hawaii.
With it’s swaying palm trees, crystal blue waters and some of the rarest animals on earth, Ni’hau sounds like the most perfect of holiday destinations.
But it won’t make it on to anyone’s must-see travel list because outsiders aren’t allowed.
The island, which has a population of just 160, was bought by Elizabeth Sinclair from the Kingdowm of Hawaii in 1864 for just $10,000.
From there it passed onto her descendants, the Robinson family, and has remained in private ownership ever since.
No one can step onto the island unless they are specifically invited by one of the residents, earning it the nickname The Forbidden Isle.
To ensure this is upheld, the coast guard constantly patrols the island to make sure there are no unauthorised landings.
And those living there take their isolation very seriously. There are no paved roads, phones, plumbing, running water or shops.
Ni’hau is the only island in Hawaii where Hawaiian is still the primary language and children are educated in a school powered by solar energy and taught to “thrive off the land”.
A Navy installation provides work for many of the island’s population, along with living off the land.
They supplement their income by selling shells and shell jewellery made from the tiny shells washed onto Ni-hau’s shoreline in the winter months.
But despite its minute size, the island and its population had a key role to play during World War Two when a Japanese pilot, Shigenori Nishikaichi, crash landed there.
He was originally captured by the residents, only to escape with the help of three locals of Japanese descent.
Nishikaichi then took hostages before he was killed by two Niihauans, Benehakaka Kanahele, who was decorated for his bravery, and Kealoha Kanahele.
While there is still no tourist accommodation on the island, since 1992 hunting safaris have occassionally taken place where people can pay to hunt eland, aoudad, oryx, wild sheep and boars.
The top secret town
Mezhgorye is a totally closed town in the Republic of Bashkortostan in Russia.
It was founded in 1979 and at the last census had a population of 17,353 people.
Very few photographs exist from inside its town limits but it is thought several huge construction projects took place there in the height of the Cold War in the mid-1970s.
And the mystery of what happens in Mezhgorye doesn’t end there.
Close to the secret town there is said to be a huge underground facility, deep in the Ural Mountains.
No one knows the actual size of this complex but there are rumours if could be more than 400 miles square and houses Russian artefacts and treasures, a huge supply of food and even a nuclear bunker.
At the end of the Cold War in the 1990s it was reported that tens of thousands of workers, presumably from nearby Mezhgorye, had been involved in the building of the underground tunnels and bunkers.
But to this day, no one knows what really goes on behind the walls of one of the world’s most secret towns.
The deadly island
People are necessarily banned from North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal – but we’re not sure anyone would actually want to go.
The island is home to the Sentinelese – a tribe who, often violently, rejects any contact with the outside world.
Travel to the island was banned in 1956 to protect those living on the isolated crop of land as they had no immunity after living completely untouched by any other humans.
This was relaxed last year to allow researchers with pre-approved clearance access to the island – but people should very much approach at the peril.
In 2006 two fishermen were killed by by the Sentinelese when they tried to approach the shore.
And late last year American missionary, John Allen Chau, was murdered when he went to try to convert the tribespeople to Christianity.
His friends say he had become “obsessed” with those living on the island.
Pal John Middleton Ramsey said: “He knew of the dangers of this place.”
Chilling images have emerged of Mr Chau’s body being dragged across a beach by the Sentinelese.
Indian authorities do not prosecute the Sentinelese for killing non-Sentinelese people and there are no plans to try to recover Mr Chau’s body.
Ancient caves that were man’s first home
Having suvived for 20,000 years before their discovery in 1948, the paintings in Lascaux Cave, France, truly are one of the wonders of the world.
For decades visitors were allowed to marvel at the artwork until it was discovered all that extra carbon dioxide produced by thousands of tourists was damaging the ancient drawings.
Now, only a select few scientists can visit some of man’s earliest pieces of art.
Weathering the storm
Another secret place that sounds like it’s stepped straight out of the pages of a sci fi novel.
Mount Weather in Virginia, USA, is a doomsday bunker of epic proportions.
Designed to be the operational hub of the US Federal Government in the event of a natural of manmade disaster, Mount Weather is housed in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Opened back in World War Two, the complex was brought into use following the 9/11 attacks in New York when most of the leading members of the US government were evacuated there.
Huge in size – 600,000 square feet at least – the complex also houses valuable paintings, which were transported there between 1979 and 1981.
As well as above and below training facilities for military personnel, Mount Weather is also believed to have its own air circulation pumps and a TV and radio station so those in charge can keep abreast of what’s happening on the surface.
US officials are denied access to the complex, meaning it’s also believed to have its own fire and police departments.
Ghosts of the Black Death
Tourists and locals alike are banned from Poveglia Island in northern Italy.
The tiny patch of land in between Venice and Lido in the middle of the Venice Lagoon was once used as a quarantine zone for people suffering from the Bubonic Plague in 1348.
When Italy’s population was decimated by the Black Plague more than 300 years later, it once again became a place of suffering.
And it’s dark past doesn’t end there.
As recently as the 1900s, the island was used as a mental asylum.
The hospital opened in 1922 but reports of widespread abuse and torture soon reached the mainland.
It is even said the screams of those who were “treated” on the island can still be heard today.
Now, it has a truly sinister reputation as one of the most haunted places on earth.
It has been estimated as many as 100,000 bodies remain on the island and there have been regular reports of hauntings and ghostly apparitions.
Buildings lie abandoned and in ruins, with nature reclaiming what was once its own.
Eerily a bath tub, broken bridges and crumbling hallways are all that remain of the huge mental hospital where brutal treatments were used on patients.
Bizarrely, the vines still growing on the island flourish – despite rumours up to 50 percent of the soil is made up of human ash.
Now, the only visitors brave enough to visit are a handful of wine makers, who harvest the groups and interpid groups of ghost hunters.
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