Out of the 1,500 or more islands in the Aral Sea of Central Asia, none is as enigmatic as a small patch of land called Barsa-Kelmes Island. In the native Kazakh language, its name means “land of no return” and it didn’t get labeled like this for nothing.
Today, the island is deserted, its last inhabitants having left decades ago. The land is shrouded in a perpetual, dense fog, keeping the strange things that happen there hidden from prying eyes. Because of these strange, regular occurrences, people that live near Barsa-Kelmes have become convinced the island acts as a passage between dimensions.
The island is said to be populated by unusual creatures that look like they came from another timeline. Locals claim to have seen large bird-like animals circling the island, sea-serpents swimming in the waters near it and humongous beasts with long necks sometimes rearing their heads from the mist. Many of those who adventured in or around the island have disappeared, never to be seen again.
Barsa-Kelmes island is plagued by more than just odd brutes and a number of unexplained phenomena happen there all the time. Watches suddenly stop working, compass needles go wild, pointing in all directions but north and even the flow of time speeds up and slows down. Legends say that in the 13th century, the island was used as a refuge by locals trying to escape the Mongol invasion. However, when the refugees returned to their land, they were amazed to see their homeland had changed as if they had been away for decades. They only spent several months on the island.
Another similar incident took place in more recent times. The island is warmer than the surrounding area and, during a particularly harsh winter in 1959, some Kazakh people thought it might be a good idea to use it as a winter sanctuary. But spring came and since they didn’t return, their relatives mounted a search party. When they arrived on the island, half remained on the shore while the other half forced their way inland. Days passed without any sign, so the remaining group decided to call in the authorities.
The Soviet government sent a plane to scan the area, but as it cut its way through the fog, on-board instruments began to fail one by one and both engines stalled. The two pilots managed to do an emergency landing and in their last radio communication, the men described elliptical objects silently floating in and out of the fog, inspecting the incapacitated plane. After that, nothing followed but complete radio silence.
Not very keen on losing another airplane, the authorities then sent in a tank attached to a long metal cable. The crew were ordered not to exit the vehicle and to keep communication channels open at all times. They managed to do that for a short while, but then the radio once again went silent.
The tank was reeled in to the temporary base established on the shore. It was empty and covered with a substance resembling ice. Samples were taken to a laboratory in Moscow but the researchers who examined them couldn’t identify the unusual substance.
In the late 1980s, a ship mechanic named Timur Dzholdasbekov described how he stumbled upon a military base of sorts during one of his trips to the enigmatic place. He claimed that the following day, he returned with a friend, only to discover the buildings had simply vanished. Plans for a scientific expedition to Barsa-Kelmes were laid out in 1991, but the collapse of the USSR brought about other worries and the venture was scratched.
Incidents such as these ones have turned the island into a key place of UFO lore, convincing many investigators of strange phenomena that the place is home to an extraterrestrial base. Russian UFO researcher Vadim Chernobrov studied the myths surrounding Barsa-Kelmes and suspects the fog could be some kind of advanced defense mechanism against unwanted intrusions.
Speaking of intrusions, access to the island is strictly verboten. Our search for answers will have to wait.
Photo credits: ArthurBlue/DeviantArt