Wittenoom is located in Western Australia’s remote Pilbara region and is considered to be the most contaminated site in the whole southern hemisphere and one of the most toxic places globally. However, tourists just can’t seem to stay away from this mining town.
Back in its prime, between 1930 and 1966, the town of Wittenoom had about 20,000 persons living here. Most of them used to work in the nearby mines that are now abandoned. These workers were mining the deadly asbestos on a daily basis. Today it is nothing more than a ghost town that is surrounded by menacing warning signs telling people to stay as far as possible from the town. Asbestos mining was stopped decades ago, but Wittenoom remains surrounded by about three million tons of asbestos residue. This is enough to make the air of the town potentially deadly.
The place has been termed so dangerous that last year, the Australian government compulsorily acquired the properties of the last three persons that were residing in that area to make sure that they were relocated to a safe place. Despite all of this, thousands of tourists are visiting the town every year and even posting the photos of their visit on social media. A majority of the 2,000 human victims of asbestos exposure in Wittenoom were residents of the town, but according to experts; even a short visit can have dire consequences.
To give you a bit of perspective; exposure to even single fiber of asbestos can be fatal. Wittenoom has been taken off maps and road signs. Furthermore, it has been disconnected from the power grid, and warning signs have been displayed all around it. However, all of this is not enough to keep the fans of ‘extreme tourism’ away from the town. Ben Wyatt, Australia’s Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Lands, said, ‘These warnings signs are not there for decoration or to add your Instagram collection. They are serious warnings about serious health consequences. I can’t stress enough that it is particularly foolish to travel to Wittenoom. There are plenty of gorges in Western Australia which do not bring with them the threat of fatal consequences.’
However, Lyniece Bolitho, who is a former resident of the town, said, ‘It’s an open field for anyone to go there. If you go there any day of the week, you will see tourist after tourist after tourist going into Wittenoom — babies, people from all over the world. This is a tourist hotspot we’re talking about here.’ However, Wyatt warns, ‘it is virtually impossible that the area will ever be safe for human habitation. So it’s best just to stay away and forget that the place exists. I have a simple message for anyone thinking of travelling to Wittenoom. Don’t!’