Why this is Geocache of the Week:
A forsaken city in Ukraine makes for a fascinating and solemn exploration. Pripyat was home to nearly 50,000 people prior to the 1986 explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Soon after the disaster, an area of 30 kilometers around the reactor was evacuated, put under military control, and designated as the Chernobyl Zone of Exclusion. Pripyat, now virtually* abandoned, lies within that zone. This EarthCache lies at the center of Pripyat.
Brief paid visits to Pripyat have been possible for some years, and tourists who embark on these trips find themselves guided through derelict school buildings, an echoing swimming hall, and a visually striking, not so amusing, amusement park.
You’ll need a Geiger counter to measure the radioactivity level at 1.5 meters above ground in order to claim the EarthCache find. And while geocaching is all about fun, a pinch of solemnity and respect are required for this cache hunt—the Chernobyl disaster is considered one of the most catastrophic events in human history, and its impacts have lingered in a very real way for the last thirty years.
*Some inhabitants refused to leave the city and surrounding areas, and there is still a small permanent population living within the exclusion zone. The tourism industry has also brought a number of businesses to the area.
What Geocachers have to say:
“For an eastern-european Pripyat was not so touching, we have plenty of abandoned buildings back home, in similar scale maybe, but realizing that radioactivity is silent killer you cannot run, you cannot really hide (unless you have your own shelter)… was really something I will remember forever. Until this visit I just didn’t take it, but walking around, seeing radio-hazard signs, with geiger going off the scale here and there…Thanks and Greetings from Slovakia.” –SureThing_II
“Crazy that we can visit and very eye opening experience having a tour. I am conflicted between enjoying the experience and also remembering the huge sacrifice and suffering that happened here. Thank you for the earthcache though, it gives time to reflect back at home and realised where I have been and what I have seen. TFTC.” –UberJason
“Should have logged this much earlier but finally. I was here with my girlfriend L!N@ as a part of our trip through Europe. I must say that this place will always stay in my memories as one of the most horrifying and thought provoking visits. But at the same time one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. I work as a teacher in natural science. When teaching about atoms and nuclear fission my pictures and stories will definitely catch my students interest.” –YOY0
Interview with the Cache Owner:
HQ: When did you first visit Pripyat, and what was your impression of it?
The Bennies: “In April 2011 we visited the Pripyat area. This was exactly 25 years after the big and sad disaster with the Chernobyl power plant, reactor 5. Around Europe we’ve heard the stories from, for example, parents of friends about their memories of this disaster. Even in Norway or Holland the radioactive ‘cloud’ came down and, for example, people had to renew the sand in the playgrounds for safety measures. Visiting this area made it scary, but very interesting at the same time. Unfortunately this relatively ‘clean’ way of getting energy (nuclear) has big risks. As seen in the more recent Japan Tsunami Fukushima. With all disaster effects.”
HQ: What do you think is the most interesting aspect of the site?
The Bennies: “We were into ‘Urbex’ [urban exploration] for a longer time, but how can you imagine visiting a totally abandoned city of 50,000 inhabitants and all its facilities, like hotels, schools, and swimming pools. All grown over by nature for 25 years and the [amusement park] still standing there like everybody just left… A very sad, but unbelievable scene. Of course the [amusement park] expresses this in the most unique way. Maybe someone can show all these decay pictures in some kind of time lapse. That would be unreal…”
HQ: Do you hear a lot of stories from geocachers who visit Pripyat and fulfill the requirements of the EarthCache?
The Bennies: “Of course getting there takes quiet some effort going by tour and by mu.tiple police and exclusion zones. But 99.99% of the cachers respect this area so much, having a once-in-a-lifetime moment here and answers the required questions very well. We are also proud to have about 5 times more gallery pictures than find logs. We always encourage cachers to log their non-spoilering (HDR) pictures with their logs to show and store the decay progress of this place in the years of the past and the years to come. Also the progress of the new sarcophagus being built around the reactor number 5 is interesting to see on the post.”
HQ: Do you have anything you’d like to share with the geocaching community?
The Bennies: “We notice that the Urban Exploring (HDR) Photography and Geocaching are getting more and more popular and becoming closer to each other as professional hobbies for people around the world. For us as team this is the perfect combination, even on holidays or day trips. Explore the unique and lost parts in this world!”