# More photos from Chernobyl, following my 1st place entry in the SteemitPhotoChallenge

in photography •  2 years ago


Wow! What a great start to the week. I woke up on Monday and saw that my photo had won first place in week 3 of the Steemit Photo Challenge.

In case you don’t know, the Steemit Photo Challenge is a weekly competition run by @jamtaylor (and sponsored by @berniesanders). The theme for the challenge was ‘Desolation’. I immediately knew just the place and the photo. This was my winning entry.

“I took this shot within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. At Middle School Number 3 in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine .”

Below are some more photos from my day at Chernobyl

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But first, some history

The nightmare of Chernobyl began on 26 April 1986 when a systems test went horribly, horribly wrong. Reactor 4 blew up, sending up a plume of nuclear radiation which spread over Northern Europe. Neighboring Belarus was the hardest hit, receiving an estimated 70% of the nuclear contamination. In fact, the world only became aware of the Chernobyl disaster when Sweden detected high levels of radiation two days later on 28 April.

It was the worst nuclear disaster in history. The death toll started with two immediate deaths before rising to 30 in the following weeks. Over the years, thousands more people suffered or died due to the radiation exposure. In 2006, Greenpeace estimated that Chernobyl would cause up to 250,000 cancer cases.

Open air museum of robotized machines

The Soviets used robots in the days after the disaster to help clean up and contain the contamination. Their purpose was to save human workers from radiation exposure.

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Unfortunately, the remote controlled machines were no match for the extreme conditions. So, the Soviets then sent in human workers to make the ultimate sacrifice. These selfless heroes saved thousands of people all around the world from radiation exposure. They did the the work that the robots were unable to do. These workers got the nickname, ‘biorobots’ (see 35 second YouTube video below).

Note: The USA had robotic technology that could have helped the clean up job and saved a lot of human suffering. Yet, they did not assist for two reasons:

  • Regulations prevented sensitive technology from passing to nations considered to be a threat.
  • America’s robots were busy cleaning up the nuclear plant at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania. Three Mile Island had a partial meltdown in 1979.


Pripyat was established in 1970 to serve the workers and families of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. It had a young population of around 50,000 (the average age was just 26).

The authorities initially played down the severity of the radiation exposure. The residents were finally evacuated 36 hours after the initial explosion at 2pm, April 27. They were given two hours to gather their identity papers and were instructed to carry what was needed for two or three days. Most people were never to return.

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Pripyat Amusement park

The Pripyat amusement park was set to open on 1 May 1986 (4 days after the Chernobyl disaster). The park was abandoned before it was ever used.

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A glimpse into Soviet life

Walking around Pripyat today is like stepping into a time capsule from life in the 1980's USSR. This is what makes it so interesting. The people didn't have time to collect their belongings. So, everyday objects and propaganda remain scattered amongst the debris of decrepit buildings.

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Sporting venues

The basketball court, gymnasium and swimming pool.

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Nature can’t be beat

On so many levels, visiting Chernobyl is a confronting, emotionally draining experience. Yet, I walked away from the day with a new sense of optimism about the resilience of nature.

In 1986, the disaster created a radioactive wasteland. The effect on the flora and fauna was devastating.

  • Mutations and birth defects became common within the animal population.
  • Large parts of the pine forest actually died following contamination to the soil and water.

Amazingly, 30 years later, nature is actually thriving!

I finally understand how ancient cities like Machu Picchu got lost to the world for so long. It doesn’t take long for nature to take over. Forests canopies are already covering buildings and the root structures are breaking down walls.

Wildlife is also returning—the wolves, elk, brown bear and lynx are back. Why? Because the humans left. It appears animals can survive in the most adverse conditions, just as long as there are no humans.

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Catfish swimming in the river besides the nuclear reactor.

What about the radiation?

The radiation released from Chernobyl was higher than the combined atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagaski (200 times higher according to Greenpeace).

These days, the radiation levels in Chernobyl and Pripyat are relatively safe for short term visitors . Our geiger counter showed elevated levels of radiation when held near to the ground and on trees.

Note: A visit to Chernobyl will expose you to higher levels of radiation. But it is less than the cosmic radiation exposure from a typical long distance flight.

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Getting a radiation check up on the way out. You have to pass this test in order to leave the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone!

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Further reading

A timeline of the Chernobyl disaster

National Geographic: Animals Rule Chernobyl 30 Years After Nuclear Disaster

Greenpeace: 15 things you didn't know about Chernobyl

Stay tuned for more travel stories, history and photos from Greenland, Iran and Libya in the coming weeks.

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So cool, man, and congrats again!


Thanks mate—I owe you. Looking forward to seeing some epic bug pictures this weekend!

WOW. I love this kind of stuff. Chernobyl is the ultimate URBEX (Urban Exploration) destination. Really eerie and haunting.

If you are into gaming and literature then this will remind you of the STALKER games/books.

If you are into the paranormal you may have seen the really spooky episode of the show Destination Truth there.

I would love to someday go and explore there.

I was always fascinated by the story and by the beauty of a huge abandoned city. The nature is very beautiful there, reclaiming the city bit by bit.
Thanks for sharing !

What an interesting place to go.

Are you a mutant now?


I don't think it is funny... don't think about THE SIMPSONS because what is happened in Chernobyl is a holocaust. Think how many people are died because the explosion... think that we had problem as well in the south of Italy...

I don't like at all this kind of joke.

With love.



Yes, but not from Chernobyl!

Some of the gas mask images and dolls... gives me the shivers. Reminds me of that horror movie based in chernobyl. definetely some great photos, makes me want to live the experience.

Awesome shots dude!


Thank you!

The humans are not the source of the radiation that made it sick, it's the radioactive materials. Have a look at what typical urban environment radiation levels are, they are about 4x as high as the ambient in the external areas (not near metal objects) in Pripyat. There is a lot of radioactive material that is permitted by governments to be in many things, the most notable being phosphate fertilisers, where there is a mingling of the mineral source with a fluoride-containing mineral that also usually contains trace uranium.

What's more remarkable is that, although the efforts to encapsulate the reactor were quite heroic and they shut it down in 6 months, even still, with the Red Forest completely dying, in merely 30 years it has come back. So the gloom and doom about nuclear disaster is quite overblown. Most people don't even realise that nuclear weapons, especially the newer ones, barely leave any radionucleides behind, they explode very efficiently. The same cannot be said about depleted uranium used in small munitions however.

good job dude, for don't forget this big disaster of stupidity humanity. There is also a movie about this ...

Amazing pictures! Thanks for sharing. Pripyat is such a mystical place. I would love to visit it one day too...


Thanks —you should go one day! There's plenty of other beautiful interesting things around Ukraine too.

very imprssive pictures



I really love reading about Chernobyl and definitely want to visit some day. Fascinating the role it played in the downfall of the Soviet Union. What a wild chain of events.


It's definitely worth learning more about and visiting. The country of Ukraine is a beautiful place—it's real shame about the Chernobyl tragedy.

Pictures are very professional, nice to see them. I have a feedback :) https://steemit.com/photography/@yulia98/more-about-chernobyl

And that is why ladies and gentlemen you don't let bureocrats manage nuclear energy.

The photos of the gas masks are crazy...


There's whole room full of gas masks and dolls. Super creepy!

Hi there! I guess you are not from Ukraine? How come you've been to Chornobyl?
Great pictures, btw!


You're right! I'm from Australia and I'm currently living in New York.
I went to Ukraine while traveling from New York to Australia the long way home. I like traveling overland as much as possible so I also went through a few of the other former Soviet states, including Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia.

I always wanted to go to Chernobyl, I'm so jealous! Thanks for the pictures!


Thank you. I certainly recommend visiting it one time—it's an intense day.

Thanks for sharing this. This was a great post!



Amazing photos! Thanks for sharing!


Thanks! I just had a look at some of your pictures—wow!

Those pics are great, you have good camera eye. Keep up with your good work.

Really cool images. I love your eclectic selection of larger panoramic, small still life shots, like the doll and then some that tell chilling stories, like the portraits sitting torn and disheveled. Amazing how fast life can change, and how resilient our world is to bounce back, however long it takes. Thanks for sharing.

You should post your pictures max res next time, I like zooming in and looking around.


When I checked a few weeks ago , it appeared that Steemit wasn't actually compressing blog post images down. So to save people from downloading super heavy images, I exported at 1600px width (2x of the 800px max-width of blog posts).

Anyway, I just checked again. It looks like Steemit now processes down hosted images to a width of 800px. That's awesome—the devs around here work quick! Next time, I'll upload high res, knowing Steemit will compress down on their end.


Thank you for this useful information.

Great pics and blog! Reminds me of the book Roadside Picnic


Thank you!

Only five days after the explosion, May 1, 1986, the Soviet authorities at Chernobyl made a terrible discovery: the active zone of the reactor exploded still afloat. The core contained 185 tons of nuclear fuel and nuclear reaction continued at an alarming rate.

Under these 185 tons of molten nuclear material was a tank with five million gallons of water. The water used at the power plant as a coolant, and the only thing that separates the nucleus from the melting of the reactor water was thick concrete slab. Afloat active zone slowly burns the plate, down to the water flow in the glow of molten radioactive metal.
If it is white-hot, melting reactor core touched the water, it would have caused massive steam explosion contaminated by radiation. The result could be a radioactive contamination of much of Europe. According to the number of victims first Chernobyl explosion would look like a minor incident.
Three men volunteered to help, knowing that it will probably be the last thing they do in their lives. They were senior engineer, mid-level engineer and shift supervisor. The problem was the shift supervisor to keep an underwater lamp, so that engineers can identify valves that require open.
The next day, the Chernobyl trio donned gear and plunged into a deadly pool.
The pool reigned pitch darkness, and the light waterproof flashlight in a shift supervisor, said to have been lackluster and periodically quenched.
Advance in the muddy darkness, the search does not yield results. The divers tried to finish the radioactive swimming as soon as possible: every minute immersion isotopes freely destroying their bodies. But they still have not found the drain valves. And so the search continued, even though the light might go off at any time, and above them could link up the darkness.
Lantern really burnt, but it was already after him caught the ray tube out of the darkness. Engineers have noticed it. They knew that the pipe leading to the very gate valves.
Divers in the darkness swam to the spot where the pipe saw. They grabbed it and began to climb, grabbing hands. There was no light. There was no protection against radioactive, highly damaging to the human organism ionization. But there, in the darkness, were two latches, which could save millions of people.
Divers discovered them, and water gushed out. Pool quickly began to empty.
When the three men returned to the surface, their job was done. NPP staff and the soldiers greeted them as heroes and as such they really were. It is said that people literally jumped for joy.
The lives of hundreds of thousands of people rescued three people.
Over the next three days, they began to appear inevitable and unmistakable symptoms of radiation sickness. After a few weeks, all three of them died.
The men buried in lead coffins sealed with lids. Even deprived of their life, their bodies were soaked through radioactive radiation.
Many heroes were the exploits for the sake of the other, with only a small chance of survival. But these three men knew that they had no chance. They peered into the depths, where they were waiting for certain death. And immerse yourself in them.
Their name was Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bespalov and Boris Baranov.

Just found this as writing up my own experience during a visit. Loved it so much. Great place to go to. Wish I had gone before the new shroud was in place over reactor 4

A visit to Chernobyl