As today is the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster it seems fitting to post an article on image number four in my gallery which is the Ferris wheel in Pripyat.
Its hard to know where to start when writing up on this image. For me this was one of the most special places in all of Pripyat and even the exclusion zone as a whole. This monolithic structure towers over the amusement park and serves as a stark reminder to the tragedy of what happened and how no more children will ever get to enjoy the attractions here in the center of the city.
It has long been believed that the rides here in the amusement park where never used by anyone. There is a certain amount of romanticism and tragedy that comes from thinking that these rides were built for the children of the city and for the upcoming May day celebrations, but no one ever got to experience them. While it is true that the park never officially opened, a friend of mine who has also spent time in the zone found some shots within a documentary of the rides in use. Ideas have been thrown around as to why people can be seen on these rides, and the conclusion within the zone administration is that they were put to use on the day after the power plant explosion to keep the town residents occupied while the authorities worked out what was going to happen in the area, no one can seem to recall for sure why this happened. One thing is for sure though, if this ride was in use on the day after the accident, the people who rode on it, when they reached the top of the Ferris wheel, were treated to a spectacular and an even more potentially fatal view of the power plant on fire.
Below is a shot of the Wheel in use, you can clearly see people riding on the wheel in the image top-right. Image courtesy of Pripyat.com
We spent a fair amount of time in this area, considering the mechanical noises that the rides should be making and the sounds of the children that should be here, yelling and having fun, the silence that now envelopes the area is truly deafening. Images of rusted and abandoned fair ground rides while interesting to me as a photographer, the shots I have taken here contain even more sense of tragedy because of the man made disaster that now renders this area uninhabitable for a very long time.
Radiation levels in this area vary greatly, and to walk around this area we were still not without caution. After the evacuation this area of the city along with the stadium area, both were used to land helicopters carrying the sick and wounded away from the power plant to Pripyat hospital which is close-by. Because of this our guide explained that radiation levels were extremely high here, what with the helicopters flying close to the damaged reactor and carrying contaminated fire crews and other personnel away from the immediate area. In the months afterwards however, liquidators performed a very thorough job of washing away all the radiation into the soil and off the concrete, because of this the area is considered mostly safe to walk around on, but, were leaves and moss have built up over time this draws the radiation up from the soil and to the surface, there is one patch of moss in particular near the center of the park, which measures roughly a few feet square which measures roughly 25 µSv/h (25 micro-sieverts) some of the highest still remaining in the city.
I took many many shots of this area both times I visited the zone. This one however is my favorite and the one that I feel best represents the area of Pripyat, myself and my photography skills. Upon editing I decided to go for a more monochromatic feel to the image representing the bleak and forgotten qualities of the area, with the pieces of the rides still retaining some color, representing the children who have grown but are still alive today and suffer daily from what happened 25 years ago.
You can view some HD footage my friend Phil and I took of the area in 2009 here –
Here are some more shots of the Ferris Wheel including some unpublished ones, all taken by myself. Note : Images open in a new window
You can also read my full write up on the Zone here – firesuite.com/chernobyl