Posts Tagged ‘Chernobyl’

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).

 

https://silentthrill.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/duga-radio/

If you want my original notes on the matter here they are but I am now going to update a little from the fact that in August (2019) I was lucky enough to get to visit the place directly.

If I get my notes in order properly I believe I will try and do a full write up of the day but I am just updating on the Duga because it was one of the big highlights. The Дугá or Duga-2 (or Chernobyl 2 or Russian Woodpecker) is SO big I cannot simply point out it was large… it is enormous and absolutely wonderful to have seen up close, I don’t know how long it will be standing there because you can see the signs of deterioration all over it but whilst it is there and possible to visit I am glad that people can.

So what else did I learn to add to the original information? Well that the structure likely cost more than putting all four of the reactors online at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant itself.

That the things all over it (pictured below) are known as vibrators, and when the wind did kick up a bit they sort of hummed very slightly. I have pretty good hearing and the sensation of being there and trying to listen was part of the atmosphere.

DugaVibrator.png

Workers would have been able to access the higher parts of the structure by elevator, I don’t think I would want to be on top of that thing on a windy or rainy day. I can’t be sure about health and safety in the former Soviet Union era but I can assure you that I’d be strapping myself to anything I could if I was working up there! I was once subject to a grim report about a death in the North Sea when a rigger failed to do it and my imagination took me straight back to that moment and I shuddered…

DugaElevator.png

There were access ladders originally still on the structure but thanks to irresponsible people climbing up they have been removed. They are on the floor as you can see behind the above photo to stop climbers having any form of easy access. I will say I can imagine people still do try but they clearly don’t think of dropping off the mortal coil if they do as just being near it was enough and I am not even afraid of heights as a general rule.

DugaLadders.png

When the wind gets it the whole thing shudders and shakes, you can hear it move and it’s both wonderful and a little jolting at the same time. The sand around the area might well be covering up the radiation underneath and giving additional support to the thing but if it fell I can’t imagine you would get any time to outrun it… You can see it from so far away even with the forest around it and you can hear it humming due to its size, even without power. I commented on my original post about the fact it would interfere with local radio and now I can understand why, how do you even hide that thing from anyone either?

Well they did have that conversation on the ground in the Ukraine and Moscow when Chernobyl’s nuclear incident happened. It was a secret military installation and they knew that officials coming from outside the Soviet Union may well notice it, did they risk driving people through to the zone and set off the geiger counters and the reality of it OR did they fly them over and pray they didn’t notice? Well in the end officials were flown over, the Chernobyl incident was simply more of a pressing matter than the giant station nearby.

There has been a death at the site in more recent years, in November 2017 (a Facebook post on Geostalkers claim it to have been 27th) a 33 year old man and a father of three died when he fell from the structure. The man was Dmitry Shkinder and he came over to the area from neighbouring country, Belarus. (Belarus is also subjected to having an exclusion zone from the 1986 incident and I shall try to do more on that at some point if I can). It was a cold, wet and windyday and he climbed up 15 foot before falling and meeting his end. “Stalkers” and thrill-seekers are being told to stop going on to the grounds, that stealing scrap metal for recycling is dangerous not to mention the haul may well be radioactive!

“That object has seen no maintenance for three decades. Its rusty, some ladders are loose. On that day it was really wet and cold and there was thick fog,” his friend Roman, who was with Dmitry when he died, told a Belarusian TV station. (Rt.Com)

I absolutely loved this place and visiting. I found it a genuine pleasure to be there and see it for myself and I am glad I was so lucky to get to see it.

I went with SoloEast Travel and they were fantastic. I shall hopefully get to write more about my trip in between my other blogs, and if this interested you I am sure there are plenty of other little dives about my posts you can enjoy.

Here are some links to enjoy too:

http://chornobyl.in.ua/en/chernobyl-2-2.html

https://goo.gl/maps/VqK4wBnCnvCuBwce8

And my video of what I managed to capture!

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.

Previous blog about the site.

1986 saw one of the worst nuclear disasters to date, the Chernobyl reactor disaster, 31 died on the day but over 500,000 people were involved and the long-term effects continue to be recorded and monitored. Witnesses who have visited the area believe that the spirits of those who died there still roam the area.

1986 is within living history for me, I was 6 but it wasn’t until I grew older I recognised the historical importance of this event. The tragedy is fascinating on both a historical and scientific level, but are also quite terrifying.

At the start of April 1986 people living and working at the power plant began to witness strange events. Sightings of a large black bird, or bird-like creature, and even a headless man with large black wings and red eyes began to be reported. It was later given the name ‘The Blackbird of Chernobyl’.

Witnesses had nightmares, threatening calls and some claimed first hand encounters with the creature. The strange happenings were reported and increased until the morning of 26th April, 1986, when reactor number four exploded.

The explosion sent a nuclear fall out of frightening proportions that drifted over the Western Soviet Union, Eastern and Western Europe, Ireland, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom and even eastern North America. All of this took a scarily short period of 48 hours. It was 400 times the level of Hiroshima and the meltdown left fires and further explosions at the direct sight. After the awful events, and further deaths of those trying to stop the radiating fall-outs, there were no further sightings of the Blackbird.

It has been likened to the Mothman, a West Virginian phenomena linked to the collapse of the Silver Bridge, previously this had occurred in 1968 and after no sightings of the creature were made either.

Pripyat town is now abandoned by living human residents but its regarded as haunted, people have reported that they have seen apparitions and shadows at the windows of the city hospital.

Andrei Kharsukhov, a nuclear physicist from the university of Bufffalo visited the site in 1997. He was at reactor fours sarcophagus but was unable to enter thanks to the radiation. Even though no one was inside he could hear the sounds of someone screaming for help, they were shouting about a fire inside. He rushed to inform someone only to be told that he was the first person into the control room for three years, if someone had gone inside before that an alarm would have been tripped.

Later in the evening they were eating dinner outside an old building, a flood light turned on in the room of the installation but no one was inside. It was like a power surge and just as someone went to say it, the light switched itself back off.

The stories of the paranormal at Chernobyl will not be ones that are easy to investigate, the continuous risks of the environment and the need for constant assessment should outweigh any ghost hunting trips. It is also worth considering that respect should be given to those are living victims of this terrible occurrence.

So for a Halloween treat I decided to hire a random film from On Demand. Flicking through I spotted it, expecting the usual cheesy rubber monster or bad CGI but at least it was going to be something new to waste some time on.

I didn’t really have a clue about what the plot was, I’ll try not to spoil anything in this review but I apologise if I inadvertently should. Basically the premise is that a bunch of
teens end up taking a somewhat dodgy tour around Pripyat, the nuclear plant explosion is well known so a quick youtube search will give you amply footage (or check my previous blog for more details about it).

For one reason or another, the tourists and their guide go via an alternative entrance to the area. They find themselves bypassing a rather freaky looking fish on the side of the contaminated river and then land in the town. The history the guide gives is brief but pretty much a quick bite size low-down to tell you how it ended up abandoned. Pripyat footage is stunning in this; I thought the location was a great one including a scene where the Reactor in the background is pointed out from a window in a block of flats. There was a little jumpy bit at the river with the fish but it’s not until things start to go wrong that it kicks into real “life” suspense.

Now I know a lot of people love to give massive criticism to the influx of these types of horrors but firstly, it’s not done in that overused Blair Witch/Cloverfield style.  Personally however I have to say I liked Cloverfield too, but the camera angles are mixed and the lighting used in what I thought was a clever approach of claustrophobia and strange noises. To begin with it looked like it was nature fighting back, dogs in the area scavenging a rather fun section with a bear and then it started to kick into live going very wrong for everyone involved.

My plus points on the film? Okay the fact you don’t see stupidly created models that make it all too fake, no arbitrary bloody scenes of gore that meant nothing in the face of the fears they were supposed to be enacting. The scenes with the dark lighting and the confusion from their actors when they are without a guide and the slow decline of health of the party all made it feel very scary. (I was alone with the lights out too, go me!)

The downsides? Well I guess some parts of the acting weren’t too strong as I didn’t really get too attached to the characters or their stories. The dark shots got a bit annoying at times as they were pretty dark, I am sure I could adjust the settings on my TV but that would have made the other scenes too bright. The ending felt a little bit rushed but I guess the counter argument to that would be that it was meant to be that way due to the events of the story.

Overall I think I’d watch it again if it came up and I wouldn’t put this down as a bad movie, and yes I have seen some terrible ones. I think if you like that type of film you’ll probably enjoy it like I did but if you are already looking at it from a downside you’ll just pick holes and flaws with it. My opinion for a mark out of 5 would be 4/5 purely because when I watched it on my own I did jump a couple of times and the things chasing them were far more realistic than a rubber costumed robot.