"QUANTUM SHOT" #391
Fire & Ice Underground
A seriously heavy atmosphere of doom and hopelessness dwells inside the catacombs of former communist mines .... Evgeny Chibilev recently sent us a series of photographs that he took in the "slyudo" mines (muscovite: potassium mica), dated from the times of Stalin's Gulags and abandoned since 1961. (it's located near the city of Kyshtym, Chelyabinsk region)
Today it's a paradise for bats and weird lichen and fungus growth, with precarious seismic and flood situation - but Evgeny and his friends found a way inside and (after taking haunting pictures) started making a "Fire Show", turning the thick darkness into fiery magical "light painting". (See our article about the best of "light art")
"All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle"
Saint Francis of Assisi, Italian monk & saint (1181 - 1226)
The entry to this underground wonder-world looks forbidding enough:
(image credit: uralweb.ru)
...so that few brave the tunnel and disturb the unique ecosystem and slithering growth that proliferates on rotting timbers. Let's zoom in on some of it:
Every falling droplet makes an epic sound
For more of the incredible pictures from this mine, visit his page1 and 2. These mines themselves were not contaminated by radioactivity, but the area around them was. For the "glowing" radiactive mines exploration, see this link
The Most Contaminated Place on the Planet
If you think of exploring these mines and adjacent area yourself, here is a word of caution, and a little history perspective on these mica "Slyudorudnik" mines:
According to this source, since late 1940s Soviets were dumping radioactive waste into the Techa river, only few dozen kilometers north of Chelyabinsk - none of the people living in villages downstream were warned about that - or evacuated when no less than three nuclear disasters struck the top secret "Mayak" nuclear testing ground nearby.
"In 1957, the area suffered the worst calamity when the cooling system of a radioactive waste containment unit malfunctioned and exploded. The explosion spewed some 20 million curies of radioactivity into the atmosphere. About two million curies spread throughout the region, exposing 270,000 people to as much radiation as the Chernobyl victims.
Less than half of one percent of these people were evacuated, and some of those only after years had passed. All in all, in the past 45 years, about half a million people in the region have been irradiated in one or more of the incidents, exposing them to as much as 20 times the radiation suffered by the Chernobyl victims."
Mushrooms and Caves of Siberia
Evgeny also takes fascinating pictures of various fungi and lichens around Chelyabinsk Ural area. He's always looking for more underground wonders, and various natural caves of the region (for example around the river Sim and Sukhaya Atya, which are ecologically clean, for a change) provide fantastic scenery and exploration opportunities:
Cave Ponornaya (Satkinski region) has a sizable population of rare brown long-eared bat (Plecotus Auritus):
These bats live in a sort of H. G. Giger's "Alien" interiors:
Also read Fungus, Lichen and Moss, Psychedelic Caves
Abandoned Tunnels & Vast Underground Spaces
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