I have, as of this writing, been doing urban exploration for a decade. I have traveled across the American rust belt and beyond specifically to photograph the old, the decayed, and the abandoned. I have also felt, in recent years, that I have been pursuing diminishing returns; after a while, each ruined building begins to look the same. When an opportunity came up to travel to the Chernobyl, I leaped at the chance, figuring that this would be above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen before.
I was not disappointed, but it was a uniquely humbling experience.
I will not be presenting the pictures to follow in the style of an informational travelogue, as the Chernobyl disaster is relatively well known, and more information can be easily found online. I merely hope to impress upon any who come across this page the inhuman scope of the event and its aftermath.
Thirty-one people died as a direct result of the explosion, either in the blast or soon after from acute radiation sickness. It is estimated that subsequent cancer deaths, however, may top 100,000.
In the months that followed, over half a million men and women, termed “liquidators”, worked to clean up and contain the site. Some worked in areas where radiation levels were so high that their shifts lasted only forty seconds.
An area of one thousand square miles, containing about sixty towns and villages and surrounding forest, were evacuated. This land, known as the Exclusion Zone, is expected to be uninhabitable for twenty thousand years, or roughly four times the length of recorded human history to this point.
“And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter”
There is a sculpture park in Chernobyl today which serves as a memorial to the disaster. The biblical sculpture seems odd until one learns that the Ukrainian word for ‘wormwood’ is ‘chernobyl’. A less fantastical memorial to the catastrophe is this walkway, featuring “leaving city limits” signs of all the towns which essentially ceased to exist following their evacuation thirty-one years ago.
Reactor number four is today encased in the Sarcaphogus, a three-hundred-foot tall steel and concrete enclosure. A statue of Prometheus, mythical bringer of light, stands outside the perimeter of the plant. It predates the disaster, its original, sociorealist symbolism of literal enlightening and empowerment now ironically subverted. The following posts will show the fruits of this Titan’s labors.