One stop-off during our time exploring Chernobyl was a place known as Duga Three. I knew precious little about the installation before we arrived and was simply told that it was an abandoned cold war radar station. In my mind I imagined a couple of buildings and a dish or something along those lines.
I was not at all prepared for the scale of what I was about to see.
The greatest fear of both sides during the cold war was an ICBM with a nuclear payload pointed in your direction. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and the soviet government needed to ensure they could detect an incoming nuke at the earliest possible moment.
To that effect, a number of enormous radar arrays were constructed to allow the USSR to peer into the skies across Europe and beyond in case a missile was to be launched. One such array, built next door to the ill-fated Chernobyl nuclear power plant, was the Duga Three complex; left to ruin when the whole area became heavily irradiated the the 1986 incident.
As we made our way inside the grounds we seemed to step back into the USSR with it’s star emblems and propaganda paintings spread about the expanse of military buildings. I was expecting a building or two – Duga Three was more like a town, with buildings everywhere.
We made our way through the gates passing building after building. We were on a tight schedule and would not be able to explore every single building so we kept our eyes on the prize and approached The Array.
Nothing could have prepared me for the height and raw scale of the radar array. Reaching two hundred metres up into the sky and stretching as far as you can see in an unbroken fence of metal mesh.
Running alongside the antennae was a seemingly endless maintenance corridor allowing access to power and communication cables, mostly stripped out now and likely sold for scrap.
Below I have posed for a selfie in an effort to relate the awesome magnitude of the array. You can yous make me out as a black-clad dot in the bottom-left of the picture.
The Control Rooms
After battling my way through the trees and bushes, I located the main control buildings. Huge in their own right, these facilities were responsible for all manner of roles in support of the missile shield.
Below, I explored the almost pitch-black remains of what appeared to be a mainframe computer room. Cabinet after cabinet – now stripped but still giving us a glimpse into the building’s history.
There seemed to be multiple control rooms, across the facility. From what we were able to ascertain, these were redundant so that operations could be relocated if part of the building was attacked or suffered a fault. This seems to be the primary monitoring station…
…although the secondary (below) was much more intact.
Other parts of the building seemed to once contain offices, archives, and all the expected components of such a facility. Here we see a concentration of propaganda decorating the walls. The theatre chairs lead me to guess this area related to training or suchlike.
Making my way up the stairs and through a window I find myself on the rooftop with a breathtaking vista in front of me.
Diving back into the building I explore on finding all sorts of facilities. This seems to be some sort of engineering room or scientific lab complete with iron workbenches and contamination chambers.
Checking my watch, we were fast running out of time so, with some reluctance, I turned back and popped my head in the myriad of auxiliary buildings which littered the path back to our meeting point.
I look forward to returning here someday. There is nowhere else I have seen which is anything like this place and there is still so many buildings – whole areas – I’ve yet to explore. Sadly, there are only so many hours in a day and we had a very packed itinerary so we started the engine and moved on to the next location on our Chernobyl road trip.