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Chernobyl trip notes
(by Alexei Sytyanov)
This is our second trip to Chernobyl, the first one failed, as we were not
permitted to cross the zone of "Dityatky" post and had to come back
home empty-handed. This was only in two weeks that we got in touch with the administration
and procured the right contact to request Chernobyl zone pass. Now we've got a
pass and guide. The four brave hearts to have ventured for this trip are:
Serguei Karmalsky (Karma),
Sergiy Grygorovych (GSC),
Andrew Prokhorov (Prof),
Alexei Sytyanov (Koan).
Rimma Kyselitsa - our guide.
Nikolai Tkach - driver.
March 29, 2002
09:58 We are approaching "Dityatky" post. Nobody seems to
be waiting for us. It's a bright sunny morning today, and it's hot.
10:00 This is the time fixed for the appointment, still nobody seen
around. We see Kamaz trucks loaded with metal waste leaving the zone. A soldier
at the post checks the trucks with dosimeter.
10:12 A woman in her late thirties approaches us, clad in khaki uniform. This
turns out to be our guide, we greet each other, she's called Rimma. When passing
the post a problem occurred - I left my documents at home and risked to be not
allowed in, but thanks to our lady Stalker who arranged it with the administration,
so I proceeded through the post.
10:30 We left our car at the post and got into "Puz" minibus. As
our driver told, when a car accumulates a certain amount of microroentgens, it
is discarded and gets sent to vehicle cemetery. Evidently, our minibus is rather
old and it will not be a long before it ends up wasted.
10:45 We approach an abandoned village. Along the road there lie rotten electric
line pillars. We are surrounded by weedy semi-rotten huts. We go out of the car
to take some snapshots and hear the guide's warning that there's no go from the
asphalt road until we put on overalls and boots, unless we want to catch some
"dirt" from grass or plants. When saying "dirt" locals mean
radioactive hotbeds, and when they say "a dirty car", they mean it is
heavily rayed. We take the shots and get back to the car. One of the photos shows
a totally grassed asphalt road, there's no go there;)
derevnya01; derevnya02; derevnya03; derevnya04; derevnya05; derevnya06;
The village makes a depressing impression on us. You involuntarily remember
the documentary chronicles of citizen evacuation. We would like to return here
in overalls now, but Rimma says we'll be driving another road on the way back.
When we drive out, a roe deer crosses the road. Rimma tells about intensity
wile animals have bred at in the alienation zone. You can come across with a deer,
hare, boar or wolf. By the way, boars are very good to endure radiation and bear
healthy progeny, though their meat is very "dirty". Recently there came
a foreign boar research group to the zone, but they had not succeeded in gaining
quick results and were called back.
11:10 The sun is hot. We drive along the road in a tight corridor of dense
woods. Rimma tells how straight after the catastrophe the rayed "red"
forest nearby the atomic facility was chopped. In a fuss, the fallen trees were
buried in the ground, and that turned out a way worse, than if the trees would
have been left standing. The buried "dirty" trees appeared too close
to underground waters and radiation could make its way into potable water.
Now we also know the symptoms to show you are rayed. If you feel a bitter
metallic taste in the mouth, it's a sign to urgently leave the rayed territory.
The next stages will be headache and nausea. By the way, some workers are said
to now and then shoot down roe deer, hare or boar and giving it a good deal of
roasting, eat it. As time passes, the feeling of danger disappears and you get
used to "dirty" neglected vicinity, you can even eat some big juicy
berries which are abundant in the area. Of course this will be harmful to your
health, but the temptation is high, and the time dulls the apprehensibility.
11:30 We are passing the vehicle cemetery. We decide to make a stop and take
some photos here. We climb on our car roof and take shots of the cemetery. It
is immense and you can see long rows of "dirty" vehicles. Armoured troop
carriers, trucks, ambulance cars, fire-engines, busses, excavators, robot bulldozers
and even cargo helicopters (the top powerful worldwide - their carrying capacity
is 50 tons). Andrew and me climb a 20-metre tower to take scaled shots of the
cemetery, while the guide talks the guards in to let us into the cemetery territory,
provided we stick to the pathway and do not touch any vehicle. From the top of
the tower a large panorama of the cemetery opens up. Wind blows and the tower
starts swaying feelingly. We go down, Rimma arranged it with the guys and we enter
the cemetery. Each of us tries to go in the pathway centre, meticulously checking
for the metallic taste in the mouth. Vehicles are really unkempt, some of them
have only carcass left. Rimma says that too "dirty" vehicles were buried
on spot deep underground. We go along rows of vehicles and imagine how rescue
brigades, firemen and soldiers got into those vehicles and drove to the burning
reactor at that night. We stop at the most interesting vehicles and take shots,
the sunshine is too bright, so that we have to cover the camera lens with hand
to create a shadow. Rimma tells of robots, of Japanese man-like robots convulsing
vehemently and falling down the roof, as if committing suicide.
I remember well the robot bulldozers, which were used to throw lumps of radioactive
graphite into the open reactor. That graphite was thrown out of reactor on the
roof at the moment of explosion. We pass the buses citizens of Prypjat' were evacuated
with, there are ambulance cars on opposite side, fire-engines nearby. The sun
is searing, too many impressions.
kladbishe01; kladbishe02; kladbishe03; kladbishe04; kladbishe05; kladbishe06; kladbishe07; kladbishe08; kladbishe09; kladbishe10; kladbishe11; kladbishe12; kladbishe13; kladbishe14; kladbishe15; kladbishe16; kladbishe17; kladbishe18; kladbishe19; kladbishe20; kladbishe21;
12:30 We drive further. Approaching the city of Chernobyl, 18 kilometres from
the atomic plant. There are people living and working in the city, but they are
not many. We enter the administrative building to go through checks and make the
12:45 For now we are clean (hope to remain the same). We drive along the road
and passing near a river make a stop to take a couple of neglected barge shots.
On the bank we find some slightly mutant pines, their differently-sized needles
are curled in different directions.
13:00 Finally we reached the sanitary inspection room. Here we'll go trough
another check and get the overalls. It is designed not to let any "dirty"
particles in to skin. Now we will be permitted into the 10-kilometre zone.
sancontrol01; sancontrol02; sancontrol03;
13:10 We are on the way to the atomic plant. Huge empty plains around, they
are cordoned with fences, warnings of radioactive danger everywhere. Rimma tells
that to the right of us on the hilly plain there was a village, which was completely
buried under the ground and hills are places where huts stood. By the way, the
huts were not demolished, but buried as they are.
attention01; attention02; attention03;
13:30 We approach the Chernobyl atomic facility. To the right of us is the
water channel from the cooling pond of the power plant. We make a stop to take
shots on the bank, a huge pipe of the cooling block on the other bank. This channel
has fish, which reaches immense size. If you throw a loaf of bread into the water,
a three-meter catfish may rise up to the surface. The fish is radioactive and
nobody touches it, in such conditions it reaches gigantic size. Unfortunately
we don't have a loaf of bread at hand, so we proceed further.
canal01; canal02; canal03;
13:50 We take shots on approach to the plant.
near01; near02; near03; near04; near05;
14:10 We are 300 meters away from the sarcophagus!!! We are told of sarcophagus
constructing and catastrophe details. On the photograph with plant model you can
see a semi-closed door, which is a way to sarcophagus balcony. There we take several
shots trying not to stay long. The balcony radioactive background is 1000 microroentgen
We are off for the city of Prypjat', the top interesting spot in out Chernobyl
chern01; chern02; maket; near06; near07; near08; near09; near10;
15:10 Prypjat', the city of stalkers. Population before the evacuation - 50000
people, and now it's empty, with only rare researches taking a stop here for several
days to shoot material. After the evacuation it was for several months that non-evacuated
residents were looked for and taken away (many of them didn't want to go). After
that the city got lifeless, but it had to be cleared of "dirt". All
the "dirty" things were buried at special cemeteries, more or less clean
stuff was given out to workers in the Zone, to create acceptable existence conditions.
After that a thorough cleansing was undertaken in the city, walls, ceilings were
cleaned, floor opened.
When entering the city there stands a guarded post (fight with marauders).
We are let in to find ourselves amid a totally empty and silent city. It's a complete
silence, the only sound to spread around the city is that of car we drive. Taking
a look at the city you instantly realize what's to be done. We'll try to fully
reproduce the atmosphere of Prypjat'. When you tune your ear, you can notice birds
chirping. There are several packs of wolves and boars living in the city. Some
boars are one and a half metre long. Rimma tells as once in winter during an excursion
for one foreign photographer she entered a building and faced two gigantic 1.5-metre
boars. Fortunately, they decided to quit the building without a trace of aggressiveness.
When fear faded, she noticed the driver and foreigner hiding behind her back.
Passing along the weedy streets we observe the images of placid (nuclear)
spring advancing at the empty city. The first building we head for is the house
of amenity services (local supermarket analogue). Grass and trees pierced through
the pavement, wide windows of the ground floor are broken, a dilapidated building
skeleton, broken glass around, trash, wrecked furniture. We enter the building
and straight away pay attention to an old price list of rental agency, it is nearly
the same as 16 years ago and you can see a mark of pre-evacuation life. We go
upstairs to the first floor to find the remnants of hairdresser's, mirror splinters,
tubes, hair curlers on the floor. In one of the premises we find a footwear dump,
hard to imagine what was here (in one of the piles there lies a plastic flipper).
When on the following day after the catastrophe (Sunday, April 27) the evacuation
was to be carried out, parents with children enjoyed ice cream in amenity house
dom_bita01; dom_bita02; dom_bita03; dom_bita04; dom_bita05;
We get inside the car - next stop is the local stadium. There we see a tree-covered
pitch. The stadium had just been constructed when the catastrophe occurred. The
wooden benches have dried out and blackened. On one of the benches there lies
a dolly without arms, evidently, photographers willing to show the tragedy of
abandoned city deprived her of them. Moss has covered the stairs all over. We'd
better be careful - moss accumulates radiation.
Nearby is a sports complex and "Lazurny" swimming pool, where we
find a basketball hall and an empty pool. The swimming pool exceeds all the expectations,
it stuns at once - an immense empty area, sun rays falling down on its bottom
through broken window panes. There is even a jumping tower, but stairs were removed,
unless somebody fell down. In the dressing room there is an overthrown sofa and
a cracked heating radiator. The time is running up and we must hurry.
bascetball01; bascetball02; basseyn01; basseyn02; basseyn03;
Children playground. Rimma warned that we should not touch the small electric-driven
entertainment cars - they are too "dirty". We take a snapshot against
the Ferris wheel. Everybody is tired and hungry. My head starts splitting with
ache, either of radiation or of fatigue.
Next stop is a house of culture and library. We enter a building with a high
ceiling, vast paintings of victorious science tread and triumph of humankind,
rolls of unreeled type on the floor, books scattered around - fiction, political,
textbooks - a mess of it all. Some books are opened on interesting pages, but
we proceed further. We go out on the balcony to view the panorama of the square
and "Polissya" hotel.
bibl01; bibl02; bibl03;
Our final stop is "Meat Fish Vegetables" shop. A neglected empty
building, no counter, a bent ventilator on the ceiling, strange runs on the floor.
The inner area is much more interesting. There we find small basins, grates for
vegetable storage, tables, wooden stump for meat dressing. All the paint has chipped,
a dark ill-lit building it is.
magasin01; magasin02; magasin03; magasin04;
We leave it through the back exit and decide to
enter a block of flats. Before the entrance we see a tree growing in the very
sewerage grating. We go inside and notice an electricity control board with a
table of names of house residents on it. Additionally, we can read which street
we are at now, it is 12 Lenin Avenue.
We get back. Take some final shots of the desolate city and get inside the
Returned home without troubles and "clean".