Dr. Manhattan

March 30, 2009 at 8:17 pm (pictures, randoms)

So here’s my trip to Chernobyl in pictures.
The trip was booked with http://www.tourchernobyl.com. I just emailed info@tourkiev.com, and got in touch with the guy who runs the whole place, Sergei. Really, really helpful guy who talked me through the whole process and answered numerous dumbass emails i sent him. You can book everything through them, from the flights (cost me about 500 euro) to hotel (160 euro for 2 nights), to a pickup at the airport and drop-off when leaving ($40 each).

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First off we need to give props to our guide, Yuri. Yuri has worked in the zone for about 8 years now, i doubt there’s many people who know the zone as well as he does.
The tour kicks off with him telling us about the zone, how polluted it still is (or isn’t, in some areas)

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Just outside Yuri’s headquarters is the monument to the firemen who died after the explosion. The monument was erected by the firemen themselves. After the explosion, firemen raced to the plant within 2 minutes of hearing the alarm, unknowingly exposing themselves to lethal doses of radiation.

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We stop not far from the fireman’s memorial, at the remains of a tiny village. The village was destroyed, and then buried under orders from the soviets for being too radioactive. The geiger counter here doesn’t show much radiation, Yuri believes it was buried out of the soviets desire to cover up the accident more than anything else. Ironically, the name of the village translated to English is called ‘diggers’, kinda prophetic really.

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The sign for the ‘diggers’ village

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Just across the road from the ex-village, Yuri points out a radar station just past the treeline. Its an abandoned military base that was used to detect incoming missiles, and for general spying on America. Apparently, it shows up on old maps as ‘pioneers camp’. We move on, closer to the plant now.

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A mile or two down the road, and we get our first glimpse of the plant. Reactor 4 (left) is the one that blew up, the reactor on the right was under construction at the time, and was never finished. The geiger counter is beeping stronger here.

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Its reading 0.139 Roentgens, and by the time we picked it up out of the grass, it had gone up to .2, and was climbing. Its still nowhere near being lethal, but put it this way, you wouldn’t want to stretch out on the grass for the afternoon. The grass is deadly around here, the asphalt was fine however! It doesnt absorb radiation like the soil did.

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Further down the road, and we get our first proper view of the reactor. Its a pretty awe (or fear) inspiring sight, and the people on the tour are getting alot quieter, and maybe a bit more nervous now. The only sound you can hear is the geiger counter beeping faster & faster. We scramble back into the van and head off, directly to the plant.

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This is just outside the plant. Everyone was wondering what in gods name this is supposed to be til Yuri told us…go on, guess what it is is. Got it yet?

Its a…

Its a……

Its a dove with an atom in its mouth! Yeah, we couldn’t guess either.

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This is a memorial to the first people to die from the explosion. Most of them died shortly afterward, but 3rd right from the center (i think) was the first guy to die, whose body is still in the plant, under the sarcophagus somewhere.

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Were directly in front of the sarcophagus now. The geiger counter is going mental. Its getting unnerving at this stage. Stand here for too long, and you’ll be going home with a healthy green glow. Some dumbass takes off his hat and puts it on the ground while he poses for a picture, Yuri almost kills him. ‘DONT PUT STUFF ON THE GROUND!!!’. Dumbass.

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We move on, now were at the Red Forest. So called because on the night of the accident, the whole forest glowed red. The forest was cut down, and buried under 6 meteres (or feet, im not sure) of earth. The only problem being, the trees they planted on top of them, are now dragging the radiation up through their roots, meaning radiation here is going UP instead of down. This is one of the most toxic places on earth.

And behind us is a roadsign that fills me with both excitement, and dread:

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Pripyat.

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Rush hour traffic on the road to Pripyat.

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Were standing on the ‘bridge of death’ here. So called because on the day of the explosion, people gathered on this bridge to see the beautiful rainbow coloured flames of the burning graphite nuclear core, whose flames were higher than the smoke stack itself. They were all exposed to levels of over 500 roentgens, a fatal dose.

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We drive on, and enter Pripyat town.

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And here it is! The finest hotel in all of Pripyat. At least it was, back in 1986.
Were going right to the top of it, Yuri tells us. **** YES!!

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Graffiti in pripyat is probably the most bone chilling graffiti ive ever seen.

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Check in desk. business is a little slow, noones checked in in almost 23 years.

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Someone forgot their newspaper.

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I ducked away from the tour for a minute to check out some of the hotel rooms. One room still had its bed, and wardrobe, and someone left their slippers behind.

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Almost at the top..

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The view from the top of the hotel. There’s broken glass everywhere in Pripyat, not just cause of vandalism, but also down to the fact that all the windows had to be left open in the town, to stop pockets of radiation collecting indoors.

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Another view from the hotel roof. The building on the left is the palace of culture. Were heading there shortly.

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On our way to the palace of culture now. Its not advisable to sit on these chairs for too long, if you value having working balls.

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Inside the palace of culture…where some mong stuck his head in my photo.

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The sun shining through a hole in the roof makes an excellent spotlight, on a stage that hasn’t seen a performance in almost 23 years.

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We quite literally exit stage right, and head around the back of the palace of culture. Apartment blocks in Pripyat still bear all the signs of being a former soviet state, the hammer and sickle is everywhere.

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All this stuff in behind the stage in the palace of culture. I think it was due to be used in the labour day parade that year, but it never came.

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Yuri tells us were moving on to the amusement park, i can literally feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

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Yuri puts the geiger counter down on a patch of moss in front of the amusement park, and it goes absolutely ballistic. I think it went up to a full 2 roentgens. 500 roentgens is fatal, 200 would put you in the hospital for a long time, 2 isn’t going to kill you, but you sure as hell don’t want to go walking on this patch of moss, put it that way. You’d beep so much going through decontamination they’d probably take you for a chemical shower.

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The amusement park was setup for the kids for the may day parade (i think it was may day, i could be wrong though). But for Pripyat, time stopped on April 26th, and may day never came.
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And then here it is, the infamous star of the show, the Pripyat eye. In Ukranian, its known as the ‘devils wheel’.

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From here, were moving on to the swimming pool.

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Lenin puts in another appearance

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Inside the sports centre.

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Pripyat was a real jewel in the crown for the soviets. And seeing the swimming pool here its easy to see why, its not hard to imagine olympic athletes training here, for the 70’s/80’s, this place must’ve been the best around. The pool is HUGE.

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Were moving on to the final part of the tour, and probably the part that brings home just what a tragedy this really was. Suddenly i’m feeling like i really shouldn’t be enjoying this. I feel like one of those rubberneckers who slows down at the scene of an accident to get a good gawp in. We’re going back to school.

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Walking under the archway into the schoolyard.

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The kids playground is barely visible through the trees that have grown up around it. I don’t think the rest of the pictures need captions.

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