Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

It’s mildly possible you’ll get quite a few updates about Ukraine or Chernobyl, not because of a recent drama show but because I visited Kyiv and Chernobyl. I’ve taken a lot of photos and notes but here is another dive into some interesting history around there.

The Chernobyl Disaster (1986) is still a major talking point even this far on, maybe I should do a deeper dive into it all, but that’s something you write books on, and I have read a few. I did Soviet history so you probably notice I pick up these things here and there in my blogs, it is actually very tempting to go down these rabbit holes more and more but there is a whole world for us to look into and so I may point some here and there but forgive me if that does happen. It is important as a point in modern history, when reactor 4 exploded it caused international concerns and the subject looks to have been added to our school curriculum (I believe).

The actual name of the, now decommissioned, nuclear power plant is V I Lenin Nuclear Power Station (чернобыльская АЕС ИМ. В.И.Ленина) and it had suffered an incident before in 1981, a partial core meltdown had occurred in Reactor 1 but was operational again within a few months and was not revealed until several years later.

At this stage both Kopachi and Poliske were normal functioning areas, the incident in 1986 left both of them abandoned, Kopachi is now abandoned entirely and Poliske has been taken from the registry but there are around 20 known settlers there.

Kopachi (Колачи/Колачi) was a village, located just south-west of the Pripyat River Basin, after it was evacuated in 1986 the authorities had houses torn down and buried as an experiment. The village was the only one that suffered from his fate and now lonely two brick buildings, a series of mounds and some trees are the original remnants of the place.

Each mound has a sign which has the international symbol for radiation on it, it points to the fact there is a house beneath it. The kindergarten and one other building is still there and the local soil is contaminated with plutonium, strontium-90 and caesium-137.

Kopachi’s geography lies within the Kyiv reg, in ion, Ivankiv district and is 4km away from Chernobyl. It’s first mention as a village appears to have been in 1685, in 1886 it was listed with 774 orthodox residents and 92 Jews as its Parish. In 1900 the owner of the village, Sergey Chelytshev listed 334 inhabitants, there were 56 households and a church made from wood named Great Martyr Paraskeva which burnt down in 1927, the church in the name of the Great Martyr Paraskei, was described as dilapidated and built in 1742 and that prior churches stood higher on Kariplouka and the church served 65 tithes. The villages under the Kopachevsky parish were made up of Nagoretsy, Semihody, Krivaya Gora and Starosel’ye.

In 1927, Father Peter , the rector, was arrested and taken off to Kyiv, his fate was not reacted in anything I could find. The church was ravaged, the Holy icons and church plates were burnt in the churchyard and as this happened the anecdote states that the residents there wept. Before the disaster it was a well established village with around 114 inhabitants and the residents were relocated to Lehnvika, Boryshiv district.

If ( like me) you played Stalker, Call of Pripyat, you can go to their interpretation of the village on the level “Neighbourhood of Jupiter”, the area is known to have zombies, the hills and old buildings also emit a lot of radiation.

Poliske or Polesskoye (Поліське / Полесское) is part of the Kyiv oblast region and can be found listed in the Exclusion Zone area. The areas has about 20 samosely, the region has about 197 people, they are returning people to the area of those considered self-settlers. Samosely are informally allowed to stay there.

I’m going to put down the number of people as a sub-paragraph because its really not that identifiable. April 2013 saw an estimate of illegal settlers being anything from 200-2000. Refugees, re-settlers and other migrations most likely mean no true number could be stated. One official birth is known, 25th August 1999 a 46 year-old woman called Lydia Sovenko gave birth to Maria Sovenko, Maria lived in Chernobyl with her parents until 2006 and goes back to the area at the weekend and visits her mother there.

So back to Poliske – it was originally called Khabnaye or Khabne’, it was renamed Kaganovichi Pervye/ Kahanovychi Pershi in 1934. It was renamed to Poliske in 1957. Poliske was founded in the 15th Century, the home of a Polish family, the Howatt’s from 1850 to 1918. It was known for it’s weaving and textile industry, and the area got official status as a city in 1938. The population dwindled after the disaster and in 1999 the remaining population was evacuated, as of 2005 around 1,000 people remained and were mostly senior citizens.

A couple of notable people are mentioned from the place, Iser Kuperman was born there in 1922 and he was the seven-times world champion of draughts. Lazar Kaganovich, one of the leaders of the Soviet Union, was born there in 1893. He was a Soviet politician and was known to have helped Stalin seize power. He died in 1991 and in 1987 an American journalist (Stuart Kahan) published “The Wolf of the Kremlin” which was a biography about Kaganovich. It is worth another side not here that some contact the books validity.

So have you been? Did you visit the area on a tour OR were you once a resident with a story to share?

Sources:

Pohilevich Lawrence Ivanovich – Ukrainian ethnographer, ‘Tales of populated areas of the Kiev province’;

Chernobylpeople.ucoz.ua ;

forgottenisland.net ;

wikipedia ;

earthtimes.org ;

Stuart Kahan, The Wolf of the Kremlin ;

Chernobyl & Nuclear Power in the USSR – David R Marples; Dazv.gov.ua – visiting the zone (English version);

Stalker game – GSC Game World.

SoloEast Travel and going on the tour.

The formulated list of the settlements that were taken from the Exclusion zone and where people were resettled too (Ukraine forum on the subject).

So I feel this might be me and a few other random folks who enjoyed this film but I’m going to try and break it down. I’d also like to say – Spoiler Alert – but let’s be honest, if you were excited about the film you would have watched it by now I am sure. Maybe this little write up would intrigue you mildly, who knows?

Guardians came out here, UK, in 2017 and was directed by Russian-Armenian Sarik Andreasyan and it is a shame it didn’t get to make a lot of reserve and wasn’t highly rated but I enjoyed the film and I’m pretty sure the rumoured sequel will never happen.

To be fair it is an easy enough plot to follow, (also rated 12+ here) and this is the case I found with a lot of things of this ilk, to be fair that isn’t a bad thing. Let’s be honest who needs an in-depth political level plot for everything? Sometimes I just like watching a fight scene and some silly jokes.

During the Cold War era a secret organisation (Patriots) gathered together and created superheroes. The team was pretty much designed around defending all of the Soviet nations and a bunch of scientists cross various nefarious boundaries to make them.

Inevitably we get the mad scientist plot and Professor August Kuratov (Stanislov Shirin) is that very mad scientist. Side not he had boots that looks a lot like Wellingtons… He turns himself into a cyborg, learns to control machines and sets off to prove to every naysayer he is a genius! Of course he’s so insane he can’t come up with a better idea like curing cancer, resolving mobility with prosthetic limbs that work or some other sensible thing. Silly man right?

In comes Patriot – reimagined with four superheroes, Arsus (Anton Pampushny) is a shape-shifting bear with a giant gun, Khan (Sanjar Madi) is a speedster and martial artist with curved swords, Ler (Sebastian Sisak) can control earth and stone and finally Xenia (Alina Lanina) who has the power of invisibility and can negate temperatures for the most part. They go to battle and after being kicked down they finish the fight on top.

So it is not an entirely new plot idea and I can see it has faults, mainly I think it lay with the special effects. Here’s another thing though, it is not Marvel and did not have that kind of budget! Also for kids I think the less scary the better and the bad guy was still creepy enough regardless, also I grew up with the original Power Rangers… The other thing I noted is that I think the dub-over in English was awful and I really didn’t find it a good watch, swapping to the native language and using subtitles meant it flowed far better.

I can understand that not everyone would enjoy this film but I did. I mean I must have liked it a bit as I ended up scouring the net for cosplayers and getting a little Russian under my belt, feeling inspired to understand the language more.

come on it’s a bear with a gun!!!!

The title related to a local Pittsburgh legend, a man called Charlie-No-Face. The story is that he was the employee of a power company and a downed power line disfigured him to the point that he would hide in an abandoned house. The story elaborates that he has a hole in his cheek and green skin. This ghostly tale of his sightings actually had a more natural and somewhat sadder explanation.

Raymond Robinson was born 29th October 1910, he died 11th June 1985. When Ray was 8 years old he was injured by an electrical line, on the Morado Bridge, when he tried to view a birds nest. The bridge carried a trolley and the electrical lines were 1,200 and 22,000 volts worth. The lines had killed another boy less than a year before.

The poor child was not expected to survive but he did, he suffered terrible scarring, lost his eyes, nose and one ear and one of his arms. He lived with his family in Koppel and made doormats, belts and wallets. His appearance meant that he would rarely venture outside during the day but he did go for walks along the quiet stretch of State Route 51, using a walking stick.

Locals would regularly gather up and search for him along the road, he would quite often hide from them but on occasion he would engage in conversation. Some of these people were inevitably cruel but that didn’t stop him from taking his walks. He had been struck by cars on more than one occasion and yet only stopped his walks in the later years of his life. He retired to the Beaver Country Geriatric Centre, at aged 74 years-old.

Raymond_Robinson_(Green_Man)

Pic courtesty of Wikipedia – creative commons.

The space race was big news and in 1960, Komarov was picked, a Soviet test pilot and aerospace engineer, he was picked to be a cosmonaut. He was going to be one of the first man to go into low-earth orbit; alongside him was Yuri Gagarin, he was the first human that went into space.

The USSR decided to be brave several years later or just criminally reprehensible. They wanted to capture a docking between two Soviet spaceships in space. The Soyuz 1 would carry one cosmonaut and a second would have two more and one in space both spaceships would dock. The men would then switch spacecrafts and one would return to earth, a plan doomed from its very creation.

Soyuz 1 was to be Komarov’s craft, he knew it was doomed and so did a great many but the officials were going ahead with it regardless. Komarov knew it was pretty much a suicide mission, he also knew however that if he backed out his friend Gagarin was next to go in.

Komarov and Gagarin both showed up on April 23rd, 1967. This is the same year the US lost three astronauts in the Apollo fire. Gagarin apparently made strange demands and demanded a pressure suit, some through he may have intended to delay the launch. The mission went off according to the plan, well until Soyuz 1 made it to space. The ship did not operate properly and did not have enough fuel, one of the solar panels was compromised and when the capsule set for descent the parachutes did not open.

The parachutes failing and then their back-up entangling with a canopy meant to fill the larger spelt the demise of Komarov. The exact conversation has never been disclosed by the USSR, an unofficial account says in a sate of hysteria when he spoke with Alexsei Kosygin, a high ranking official, who cried with him saying that he was a national hero. He had a brief call with his wife about what to tell their children and they both plummeted through Earth’s atmosphere. It hit the ground with the force of a 2.8 ton meteorite. Some also say that he died screaming and cursing the people who contributed to his death.

His charred and unrecognisable body was then recovered and given an open casket, state sponsored funeral with military honours. It is worth mentioning again at this stage the stories about the alleged conversations and curses are speculation and probably just urban legend. What is worth mentioning is his incredible bravery and contribution to science and the exploration of space.

Fallen Astronaut.jpg
By NASA – Original image at http://history.nasa.gov/alsj/a15/as15-88-11894HR.jpg Another: http://images.jsc.nasa.gov/luceneweb/caption_direct.jsp?photoId=AS15-88-11894, Public Domain, Link

 

So its that time! Time to look at communication, specifically an old over-the-horizon radar system called the Duga from the former Soviet Union (Russia/Ukraine for the purposes of this article.) Over The Horizon (OTH) or Beyond The Horizon (BTH) are radar systems for long range use. Most were used in the 1950’s and 1960’s because they were early warning systems, just think about the Cold War and the idea of it being a necessity; the ones I am looking at here are the Duga system but they were used all over the world and still are, if modern reports online are correct. I am no expert so correct me where you can if I get things wrong.

The system operated from July 1976 up until December 1989, there were two deployed in Chernobyl and Chernihiv. Chernobyl is in the Ukraine and Chernihiv is Siberian. They were powerful and appeared without warning, sounding like a repetitive tapping on 10Hz, they became nicknamed by the listeners as the Russian Woodpecker.

They seemed to pop up pretty randomly and could interrupt legitimate broadcasting and all variations of stations. Complaints were sent in about them but I can’t imagine it being easy to prevent them. Some of the radio and television users began including blockers in the circuit to try and filter out interruption.

The first type of Duga was built in the Ukraine and did successfully detect rocket launchers from 2,500 kilometres. With its success they worked on the larger project. The first signal was picked up in 1976 and amatuer radio users gave it the name woodpecker, some people had reported it as early as 1963. Regardless of the date the Russian Woodpecker was traced back to the Soviet Union. The sources were found in Kiev, Minsk, Chernobyl, Gomel and Chernihiv but eventually narrowed down through speculation has been made that there was more than one transmitter. Wireless World, 1977 muses that along with the OTH system the Russians might be trying to utilise radar returns or another source that worked along side it, or around two or more spots.

I wondered if this was plausible or were we just putting more technical knowledge to that in retrospect or are we accepting that NATO might not have been entirely accurate? The NATO name for DUGA-1 is quoted as STEEL YARD, some sources also use STEELWORK. It is officially recorded name may well be different but not disclosed for security purposes.

Some points of interest are that they realised when listening that it was not used as a form of jamming because Moscow and pro-Soviet Stations were also caught by it, so it couldn’t be reliable enough for that. The signal used three repetition rates of 10Hz, 16Hz and 20Hz, but the most common was 10. They used a fairly wide bandwidth, usually 40Khz.

An attempt to stop the signals causing interruptions came along, one of the ways was tor try and use signals at the same pulsing rate, people formed a club called The Russian Woodpecker Hunting Club. The transmissions slowed down in the 1980’s by 1989 they had disappeared. This slow down and eventual end does coincide with the Cold War closing down, the official end being 8th December 1971 when the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Another factor in the close would be a further advancement in early warning systems, satellite systems are far more advanced and less likely to be affected by adverse weather.

The original Duga system was experimental and it lies outside of the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine. It was restored in 2002 after it was badly damaged by fire. As of October 2013 there is a possibility to visit the Ukrainian site via tour operators for Chernobyl who know how to get the correct paperwork.

For those who like modern reference here are some ways the Duga has been imported into modern media.

If, like me, you enjoy games like Metro Last Light or S.T.A.L.K.E.R then you may already know this… Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is a heavy feature in S.T.A.L.K.E.R and specifically around the nuclear accident. The Duga array is in Clear Sky after the main campaign game. It is in the fictional city of Limansk-13 you can see it and visit it in game. The ‘Brain Scorcher’, a military installation, is inspired by the idea that Duga-1 was used for mind-control.

Call of Duty:Black Ops the map ‘Grid’ is placed in Pripyat and the array can be seen in game there too.

A documentary by Chad Garcia looks into the Chernobyl disaster and the potential links to the structure. The documentary interviews people directly involved in the building and operation of the installation.