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Thread: Inside the Post-Soviet Towns Built Around a 40,000-Foot Hole

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    Inside the Post-Soviet Towns Built Around a 40,000-Foot Hole

    Inside the Post-Soviet Towns Built Around a 40,000-Foot Hole



    The Kola Superdeep Borehole was for 20 years the deepest hole in all the world, and it remains one of the oddest battles of the Cold War. Scientists began drilling in 1970, determined to beat the US to the Mohorovicic Discontinuity, the theorized boundary between the mostly solid crust and the magma-filled mantle.

    They kept at even as the Soviet Union collapsed around them, ultimately reaching a depth of 40,230 feet. Research continued for years afterward, until funding finally ran out in 2006. The site was abandoned two years later. Today, the borehole is plugged with a rusty metal cap.

    The fate of the borehole parallels that of the region it was named for. During the Soviet era, the Kola Peninsula was a fine place to live, and it drew people from throughout the world to work at the borehole, in the mines, or for the nickel and copper smelting plants. But after the Cold War ended, the economy tanked and inflation devoured people’s savings. The population has over the years dropped from 1.2 million to just under 800,000. The land tainted by sulphur dioxide pollution and nuclear waste.

    Russian photographer Sergey Novikov is fascinated by the region and its Soviet past. For his ongoing series Kola Superdeep, he visited Nikel and Zapolyarny, the two towns closest to the borehole. He found them to be gloomy, depressive places shrouded in gray clouds and punctuated by smokestacks. Yet he felt strangely drawn to them. “There’s something intriguing about [them], a strange mystic aura,” he says. “It’s a very different life there.”

    He first visited in 2012, when he traveled to Zapolyarny to photograph the local soccer team. The town featured gray buildings around a central square and a dwindling population. Most people Novikov met earn $700 a month working at a nickel briquetting plant owned by Norilsk-Nickel, the world’s biggest nickel producer. The place felt stuck in time. “Nothing seemed to have changed since the 1970s,” he says. “You saw the same shadows on the street as back then.”

    It was two years before he was able to return. Novikov spent 10 days shooting in and around Zapolyarny and Nikel, both of which are within 10 miles of the borehole. The two towns are remarkably similar. In Nikel, many people work as guards along the border with Norway, or work in the nickel mines and the local smelting factory. At one point Novikov saw the factory belch an unusually large plume of smoke that darkened the sky. Locals told him it happens from time to time. “It was hard to breathe, because the air was very polluted,” Novikov says.

    He worked with a medium format digital camera, capturing dilapidated buildings and abandoned quarries. A few photos offer glimpses, however tangental, of the borehole—samples from the drilling site shown in a local museum, graffiti that reads, “We are by the hole.” Novikov also used a large format camera to photograph locals, like Vitaly Kuznetsov, an information security specialist in Nikel who wants to start a laser tag club, and Mikhail Borisenko, an elderly resident of Zapolyarny who once worked at the factory as a staff photographer.

    Borisenko hadn’t been to the borehole in ages, but happily took Novikov there. Using a Soviet-era map as a guide, they wandered the tundra, passing foxes and polar rabbits along the way. Melting ice and snow formed puddles and streams, which kept them from reaching borehole cap. They saw it off in the distance, a few ramshackle buildings and scraps of metal. There was no hint of the scientific and geopolitical promise it once held. “Kola Superdeep was a huge legend,” Novikov says, “and now it’s abandoned.”

    http://www.wired.com/2016/03/inside-...bscura#slide-4

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    How quickly the works of man are destroyed by nature.
    'Militia est vita hominis super terram [The life of man upon earth is a warfare] (Job 7:1).'

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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    I love things like this.

    I love looking at Pripyat too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NordicSkogsra View Post
    I love things like this.

    I love looking at Pripyat too.
    There's a couple of really good photo collections on Pripyat. This one by Robert Polidori is really exceptional and in large format by Steidl.



    http://www.amazon.com/Zones-Exclusio...Pripyat+photos

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    20% of the world's nuclear reactors are on that peninsula, I can't even fathom that. Murmansk held the USSR's first repository north of the Arctic Circle, so ill-run that it was the first site of its kind to be shut down by authorities and in Russian terms that is truly frightening. The Russian Navy purposefully sank at least 6 nuclear subs in the area and many more are just sitting on the shoreline rotting, not to mention the tens of thousands of barrels of waste they just chucked into the Barents Sea or the land-bound waste they had venting in open air for who knows how long.

    Only eight years ago did they finally clean up hundreds of RTGs (generators requiring low power for very long periods in remote areas, in this case powered by the cheap plutonium-alternative and notorious calcium mimicker strontium-90) around there, some of which were being stripped for scrap metal by stupid scavengers who went around leaving the cores exposed. Lovely. The waste was sent to a facility in Mayak, the most radioactively polluted place on Earth and the USSR's plutonium factory. I imagine any further decommissions will be routed to that brand new facility that supposedly went up in Saida Bay a few years ago on Germany's dime.

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