The Abandoned Island Base Nobody Is Allowed To Visit

Terrifying Island 

When summer arrives in Massachusetts, tens of thousands of Americans go to Martha's Vineyard's luxury resorts to relax.

There exists another island just three miles from the holidaymakers that no one ventures to. On this island, the only life is the occasional rabbit or seal. There is, however, a scary explanation behind this.

Big Difference 

The island is located in the Atlantic Ocean and is called Nomans Land. Despite it being so close to Martha's Vineyard, it is completely different. 

In fact, there isn't a single human here. Why is it that no one wants to even go on this beautiful piece of land, let alone develop it?

Hidden Truth

Martha's Vineyard properties are worth millions of dollars, and Nomans Land being a mere three miles from it should make it a very desirable location, right? 

Nobody wants to even go near the island. The horrific truth hiding beneath the surface is why this supposedly lovely island has been left deserted for so long. 

Long Ago 

Nomans Land was not always devoid of people. The island belonged to a group of people known as the Wampanoag people. A privateer, named Bartholomew Gosnold, appeared on the coasts of the island in 1602.

The namesake of the island, Chief Tequenoman was in charge of the island during that time. A prohibition on entering the area has even been placed on descendants of the Wampanoag people.


A legal battle has been going on for many years among the modern descendants of the Wampanoag people in order to get access to the island.

There are numerous Wampanoag burial sites on the island, but they are not permitted to visit or pay their respects to their forefathers. There's a frightening explanation for this.

All That Remains 

Several scattered ruins are all that are left of the people who once inhabited the island. The location of former houses and farms can be discerned from decaying stone walls here and there.

They're the only objects left on Nomans Land that can attest to the existence of a human presence. What happened to them all?


The coastlines of Martha's Vineyard and  Nomans Land, and indeed this entire section of Massachusetts appear serene and appealing on the surface.

But once you do research you'll find out that the area has a dark and disturbing history. A good example of this is the story about the predators who infested these Atlantic waters.

Cape Cod Attack

A 26-year-old man named Arthur Medici was attacked by a great white shark on the coast of Cape Cod. The incident happened in 2018 while Arthur was surfing. This attack changed Cape Cod forever. 

Others that were surfing that day noticed the giant eruption, followed by what looked like a huge trail whipping out the water. The blue water turned red and they could no longer see Arthur. But there's a great twist of irony to this story.

More And More

The irony is that the movie, Jaws, used Martha's Vinyard as its set. Since the release of the movie, the fear of these dangerous predators lurking in the water has become very real. 

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has spent the last decade studying the migration of great white sharks. They found that the amount of great white sharks in Cape Cod has more than doubled in the last ten years. But is this why people stay away from Nomans Land?

A Rich History

Martha's Vineyard has been described as a haven of tranquility. It's peaceful and quiet with quaint genteel towns, and vast tracts of pristine beaches lapped by gentle waves.

Once this island was colonized, it quickly became a hub for whaling. Sailors were all over the ocean surrounding this island, searching for valuable blubber until the whaling industry collapsed. Once that happened, it became a tourist destination for the wealthy and became an extremely famous spot because of Jaws.

Something Worse

Still, thousands of wealthy Americans flock to nearby Martha’s Vineyard every summer - the fear of sharks does nothing to stop them from enjoying the luxury resorts and beaches.

It’s not the fear of sharks that stops anyone from setting foot on the deserted island three miles away, either. It’s something much, much worse.

Something Doesn’t Add Up

According to the Chamber of Commerce, Martha’s Vineyard has around 17,000 permanent residents. During the hot summer months, this number swells as the elite flock to the wealthy enclave. But why?

Why is Martha’s Vineyard such a popular destination, but its sister island to the southwest is completely uninhabited? To an outsider, it makes no sense.

Rare Animals

Nomans Land is teeming with rare flora and fauna, it’s only humans who steer clear of the island. Thirty percent of the land is wetland, so it provides an ideal habitat for many threatened species.

It’s home to grey seals, rare spotted turtles, and so much more. But it’s not because the island is only off-limits to humans.

No Predators

Nomans Land is the perfect sanctuary for a variety of wild animals because, aside from sharks, it is absolutely free from predators. Unlike its sister island Martha’s Vineyard, you won’t find coyotes, weasels, or fisher cats here.

Although the island seems welcoming to all forms of life, the predators, like the humans, all faded from the island long ago. 

Manmade Terror

Nomans Land seems like it’s in a prime position for residents and holidaymakers - surely, such a fertile island that supports all kinds of wildlife can support people, too?

Even though the surrounding ocean is teeming with sharks, they haven’t deterred tourists from flocking to Martha’s Vineyard, just three miles away. But the terror that keeps the island off-limits is entirely manmade.


In 1942, the island was embroiled in a different kind of conflict when Japanese forces launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. We all know what followed. 

As American soldiers swarmed to Europe to help their allies, the Navy built an airfield on Nomans Land’s southern shores. But this wasn’t destined to be a place just for planes to refuel... 

A New Buyer

From 1943, Nomans Land was used as an airfield and a naval bombing range for aviators to practice their combat techniques.

Two years later, Even when WWII came to an end and the Allies emerged victoriously, the carnage of the landscape continued on Nomans Land. Then, in 1952, the island was sold by the island’s owners to the U.S. Navy.

Devastated Landscape

By the time Nomans Land passed to a different set of owners, it had already been abandoned by its inhabitants - although the range was still active.

When operations finally ceased in 1996, the landscape of Nomans Land had been devastated by more than 50 years’ worth of bombs.

A Ticking Timebomb

Today, Nomans Land is littered with unexploded bombs. These sleeping giants are the reason nobody is allowed to set foot on the island. But that didn’t stop the occasional naturalist from exploring the strange abandoned place. 

One such naturalist, Gus Bed David, traveled to the island’s shores in 1973 - while the bombing range was still active. 


Gus Van David, a resident of Martha’s Vineyard, was dispatched to the sister island to see what he could discover on the strange, abandoned land.

Even though the bombing range was still active at that time, it didn’t deter the determined naturalist. What he found left him floored and prompted him to tell everyone to steer clear.

Should Be Left Alone

Ben David climbed carefully up the hillsides and observed the wetlands, he was well aware of the danger of the undetonated bombs that lay all around him. But the bombs aren’t what prompted him to tell the world to leave the island alone.

The uninhabited island, which is so unusual for the heavily populated New England coast, was a paradise for bird and marine life.


The fact that the island is devoid of predators and humans makes Nomans Land a haven for thousands of different songbirds.

When these songbirds migrate south every year, they use the island as a safe stop on their route through the Atlantic - this important stop on the route is known as the Atlantic Flyway.

A Protected Place

Despite many suggested cleanup operations throughout the years to make the island inhabitable for humans again, Ben David argues that it should remain untouched and that the absence of people is a boon for the flora and fauna there.

“Wildlife is a product of habitat,” Ben David says. “You protect the habitat, and you have your wildlife.”


There has been a lot of outcry over the years. People want renewed cleanup efforts to remove the undetonated bombs on Nomans Land.

While the greedy want to grab the picturesque island and turn it into a mini-version of Martha’s Vineyard, others worry that undetonated bombs could start washing up on the shore of the popular and expensive holiday spot. 

Abundant Wildlife

Ben David continues to visit the island and is always floored when he observes the natural fauna and flora thriving there. 

Even though he’s spent more time on Nomans Land than any military personnel, the naturalist believes the island should be left alone - even an operation to remove the undetonated bombs would destroy entire habitats beyond repair. And other naturalists agree with him.

A Human-Free Zone

Biologist Stephanie Koch is fighting to keep Nomans Land a human-free zone. “I think it’s important to have a few places that are completely prohibited from the public,” she told 

But some other naturalists disagree. After all, the island is a ticking timebomb - and an ecological disaster waiting to happen.

Pending Disaster

Ecologist Brian McCarty believes that all the debris of war should be cleaned up. According to him, the munitions scattered on the hills and beaches could corrode and poison the soil and surrounding water. 

“You don’t manage anything by leaving it alone entirely and not having a connection to it,” McCarty told Smithsonianmag. The cleanup operation on Nomans Land needs to happen before it’s too late. But what do the descendants of the Wampanoag people think?

An Ongoing Battle

The descendants of the original inhabitants of the island are still fighting their legal battle to have safe access to Nomans Land. 

In a hearing in 2020, Bret Stearns, on behalf of the Wampanoag people, said that the island’s original inhabitants should have “greater and safer access to the island, both for cultural use, and for general access by tribal members.”

Opinions From All Sides

So the fate of Nomans Land lies between the Wampanoag people, the naturalists who want it to remain preserved, the fretting public, and the greedy.

Alex Bushe, a documentary filmmaker working on a project about the island, said: “I think that there are good arguments from all sides. It’s a really, really tough call.” However, setting foot on the island for any reason is playing a dangerous game.

Up For Debate

While the idea of leaving the island to its own devices so it remains untouched by humans is alluring, it would also be logical to try and clean up the mess humanity has subjected it to for half a century. But what about the people who called Nomans Land home before any bombs were dropped there?

Will the island ever be opened to the public? Or will it remain a strange and desolate place? Only time will tell.