Nuclear Winter in Chernobyl
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Full story from the trip here - on the blog at Stuck In Customs
I spent the day in Chernobyl. One of my Kiev game dev friends hooked me up with a private tour, so I decided to go for the day to check it out. Every woman in my life told me this was a bad idea. Every man said it sounded awesome.
It was awesome, although I really usually fair better when I listen to the women.
Anyway, the day could not have been colder, but it fit with the milieu of the trip to Chernobyl. In case you don't know or can't remember, this is the infamous nuclear power plant that melted down in 1986; it was the worst nuclear plant disaster in the world.
I have taken a bunch of photos, but only had time to process a few of them. I'll post more in coming weeks and months, but I have pieced these together that show a good sampling of the day.
After I made it through the 30KM security radiation zone, where Will was detained by the military for not having proper documentation (a longer story which ended with him sitting in a military bunker for four hours watching Colombo dubbed in Ukranian), I was handed over to a member of the military who took me on a personal tour of the area. We passed through the 10KM security radiation zone, and then we were well within the exclusion zone.
I paid one of the military guys and borrowed his geiger counter so I could keep track of the RADs as we moved around. More on that later.
First, we stopped in Pripyat, a fascinating place right out of the Day After. Pripyat was built as the ultimate Soviet communist panacea, a place for Chernobyl plant workers and their families to live, go to school, play, and live their lives in master-planned bliss.
Pripyat was immediately deserted after the accident - kids left schools with their books still on the desks, families rushed out without getting everything, just complete and instant desertion. While I was there, it was completely quiet, and it was extra surreal with the early 80's styling of the Soviet buildings, windows ajar, stuff still sitting in all the windows.
First, from Pripyat, here was the shining star of the city, the fine hotel in its Russian splendor, now an empty, cold, and radiated husk.
Second is one of the large apartment buildings with a slowly rotting exterior. I could still hear shutters opening and closing in the wind.
Next, I went to the creepiest part of Pripyat, the playground and amusement park. This was recently completed just before the disaster. Bumper cars, swings, a ferris wheel, and other bits of abandoned toys now lay quiet and creaking in the snow. The second picture is another part of the playground, where the kids emerged from school for playtime.
We checked the Geiger counter because this area was supposed to still have a significant amount of caesium-137, which takes a good 300 years to dissipate to safe levels. It was around 0.054, so we decided to keep moving. Now we started heading for the main power plant complex. We stopped in something he called the RAD forest that had an old Chernobyl sign that was kitschy and interesting. 0.290 on the screen. He looked at me, "We should leave quickly."
Finally, I ended the the tour at the Chernobyl power plant itself. It was nerve-wracking, so I took a few shots then moved along.
On the way out, I went through three different radiation checks. Below is one of the military guys that was holding a geiger counter gun that he ran along the car and a few other things. I went inside to a special decontamination center and entered a device that looked like stripped down telephone booth / nautilus machine. I placed my hands and feet on special sensors. It said I was clean in some cyrillic word that may or may not have said I was clean. I looked at the military guy that escorted me in there and he gave me one of those Russian frowns and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, "Eh, good enough".