Posts Tagged ‘urban decay’

Chernobyl & Pripyat

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

I remember hearing about the Chernobyl disaster when I was (much) younger.  Being at the height of the cold war, information surrounding the event was a fraction of what’s available today and what information was around didn’t pique my 10 year old interests all that much.  There were vague hopes of evil mutants and a series of super powered heroes to battle said mutants, but on the whole thoughts of the event didn’t interfere with my hectic schedule of cartoon viewing and video game playing.

As a teen there were always jokes about Chernobyl and it was just another tick in our favour used as an example of why a democratic system was better than a communist one.  How an industrial disaster relates directly to social systems I’m not sure, it was just one of those times you nod your head and agree with the adults.

Chernobyl, reactor 3 and 4 visible here.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve wanted to visit the area ever since I discovered that one could visit about 5 years ago.  The radiation levels were deemed safe for short term exposure and I’d seen some amazing photos and stories posted online.  If nothing else, I imagined it would be a cool day out shooting something that won’t be accessible for much longer.

In reality, the trip was fascinating and sobering at the same time.  Accorcing to the video we watched on the 2 hour drive out, the official death toll from direct exposure to the incident (during the explosion or post disaster clean up and containment) was only 28.  A quick search shows numbers up to 250,000 being tossed around but obviously when you’re dealing with this sort of thing it’s impossible to tell.

What is more tangible and no less sombre is the fact that a city of about 50,000 was evacuated and never allowed to return home.  I think this bothers me more because the city I grew up in was the same size at the time.  It makes it easy to relate.  The ability to go back home whenever I feel like it is something I’d never considered a privilege (if you want to call visiting Medicine Hat a privilege that is); I couldn’t help but think what those people must have gone through.

The famous Pripyat sign.

I’d gone expecting a fun day out doing some urban exploration but it ended up being a lot more reflective than I’d ever anticipated.  It was certainly fun, but a lot of that had to do with the guys I was out there with.  As a photographic outing, I think the trip was amazing and should be experienced by as many people as possible.  If you’re thinking about it, the sooner the better as we were told that they will be restricting the buildings you can visit before the end of the year and before long they won’t allow anyone into any of the buildings due to their deteriorating state.

As an eye opening experience to what the people who when through this faced the tour was unmatched.

A sign in the exclusion zone, near the tanks.

One of the bumper cars in the amusement park.

The rest of the photos from Chernobyl and Pripyat can be found here.