So, things have been a little quiet at DystopiaPhotography.com over the last couple of months. However, I recently returned from a trip like no other. I brought back with me, as you might expect, quite a few photographs. I hope you all enjoy seeing Ukraine – as this will be the first of many posts from my Chernobyl 2014 trip.
When Reactor Four of the Chernobyl nuclear power station exploded, it released a cloud of deadly radiation which made it’s way as far as Ireland. Despite the USSR being slow to admit the catastrophe to the west – or even it’s own people, it was soon forced to evacuate the neighbouring city of Pripyat which was downwind at the time.
The only exception to this sudden emergency abandonment was the mysterious ‘Jupiter’ factory, positioned on the edge of the town. It is reported that this large industrial complex remained operational in some capacity until 1996.
Almost hidden by forest and protected by tall electrified and barbed fences, the premises are as secretive as they are vast. The official purpose was the manufacture of cassette recorders. Why was such a mundane and unimportant facility kept operational for ten years despite the area being contaminated with dangerous levels of radiation?
Given the secretive nature of the soviet government, there is plenty of scope for speculation and tales of cold-war military secrets.
Some say that the production of tape recorders was merely a front and the high electric fences protected development and production of top secret cutting-edge military computers or recording equipment.
Could it have been that the fear of radiation even acted as an additional layer of security allowing even more sensitive work to be conducted for those ten years?
I didn’t have a lot of time to investigate (and I don’t speak a great deal of the language either) but I am inclined to side with the less exciting theory that the original purpose was simply the production of tape recorders – who knows, maybe including those for the military, and that the facility was re-purposed following the disaster as a base for research. Sad though the disaster was, it provided a great opportunity to better understand how radiation affects the environment and also to develop and test the various equipment that would be used to detect radiation.
Or maybe it’s where they hid the alien spaceships, lol – Who will ever really know?
Pipe-porn aplenty – Super Mario World: Pripyat Levels.
The roof of the administration block afforded a beautiful panoramic view of Pripyat and beyond. In the distance you can clearly make out the ill-fated Reactor Four enclosed in it’s protective sarcophagus as well as the gigantic ‘safe containment’ arch intended to extend the protection against the extreme radiation inside.
At the bottom of the tall block of admin offices rooms appear more set up for laboratory and engineering purposes. Filling cabinets are replaced with jars, workbenches and safety notices.
Joined with a first-floor bridge, is the large open-plan factory proper at the rear of the facility.
The factory floor is occasionally sectioned off – possibly in relation to different production lines which existed simultaneously.
Some rooms at the back stored cupboards of tools and parts.
Exiting out the back of the factory allowed a quick peek into engineering, boiler and electrical rooms.
The population of Pripyat were evacuated on buses which were then abandoned at the rear of Jupiter Factory. The evacuation was delayed – the government actually tried first to explain that there was no need for panic and that huge explosion and fire at the nuclear reactor was nothing to be concerned about. When it became clear this head-in-sand approach was going to lead to thousands of horrible deaths, things were re-evaluated and the first bus-loads were evacuated to safety.
I am confused as to how this beast fits into the manufacture of tape recorders! I suspect it is more likely something used following the reactor explosion and dumped due to contamination.
After a much-too-short couple of hours exploring the vast industrial playground, we assembled at the gates and made our way, through the radioactive woodland, to our next cold-war time capsule.
This is the first in a larger series of posts I will be publishing over the next few weeks and months. We visited a massive number of buildings across Pripyat and I will share the best and most interesting with you all as soon as I can. I hope you enjoy at least half as much as I did exploring these long-forgotten places.