Barsakelmes, a scary island of no return, once was an island in the Aral Sea. Due to the natural changes, no water left, and Barsakelmes became a plateau in the Kyzylorda region of Kazakhstan. People still call it an island though. Officially, nobody is living on the island. Barsakelmes translates from the Turkic language as “ who goes there will not return”.
In 1929, on the Barsakelmes island was established a farm of ground squirrels. Ten years later, the whole island was declared a national reserve. Strangely, it was one of the most closed national reserves of the entire Soviet Union. Officially, the main goal of the reserve was to support the kulan (also known as a wild donkey) population, that were brought from the Turkmen SSR. In the Soviet time, it was almost impossible to get on the island. What was happening there for the major part of the 20th century is almost unknown. Many people spoke about secret researches.
Nowadays, you can get to Barsakelmes, but it requires a great effort. Locals consider this island a very mysterious place. They know a lot of stories about the past centuries. One of the legends is well described in the book “The Heart of Asia” by N. Roerich: a group of people, who thought that they had been on the island for only a couple of years, returned home after two-three decades. Some say that they see UFO’s, while others claim that the time can stop there. There are no real proofs of what they say, but locals love to exaggerate. Also, there are still two interesting unexplained facts:
1. There were real cases when people after a longer stay on the island (usually overnight) turned to have blue skin.
2. There is a graveyard on the island, and it is strange that some graves are relatively “new”. So, who are the buried people, and who buries on an abandoned island?
Today, a new Barsakelmes reserve is established here. There is almost no fresh water. The only fauna consists of scorpions, spiders, and snakes. Cellular communication and navigation works intermittently. It will be very difficult for foreign tourists to get to the former island. Although if you ever have a chance to visit Barsakelmes, a scary island of no return, and get back safely, you must be really lucky.
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