Ghost Town - Introduction

Elena FilatovaMy name is Elena. I run this website and I don't have anything to sell. What I do have is my motorbike and the absolute freedom to ride it wherever curiosity and the speed demon take me. This page is maintained by the author, but when internet traffic is heavy it may be down occasionally.

I have ridden all my life and over the years I have owned several different motorbikes. I ended my search for a perfect bike with a big Ninja that boasts a mature 147 horse power, some serious bark, fast as a bullet, and is comfortable on long trips.

I travel a lot and one of my favorite destinations leads North from Kiev towards the so called Chernobyl "dead zone," which is 130 km from my home in Kiev. Why my favorite? Because there one can take long rides on empty roads. The people who lived there have all left, and nature is blooming. There are beautiful woods and lakes. In places where roads have not been traveled by trucks or army vehicles, they are in the same condition they were 20 years ago - except for an occasional blade of grass or some tree that discovered a crack to spring through. Time does not ruin roads, so they may stay this way until they can be opened to normal traffic again...a few centuries from now.


To begin our journey, we must learn a little something about radiation. The concepts are really very simple. The device we use for measuring radiation levels is called a Geiger counter. If you flick it on in Kiev, it will measure about 12 - 16 microroentgen per hour. In a typical Russian or American city, it will read 10 - 12 microroentgen per hour. In the center of many European cities one can measure 20 microroentgen per hour, the radioactivity of stone.

1,000 microroentgen equals one milliroentgen, and 1,000 milliroentgen equals one roentgen. So one roentgen is 100,000 times the average radiation of a typical city. A dose of 500 roentgens within 5 hours is fatal to humans. Interestingly, it takes about 2 1/2 times that dosage to kill a chicken and over 100 times that to kill a cockroach.

This sort of radiation level cannot now be found in Chernobyl. In the first days after the explosion, some places around the reactor were emitting 3,000 - 30,000 roentgens per hour. The firemen who were sent to put out the reactor fire were fried on the spot by gamma radiation. The remains of the reactor were entombed within an enormous steel and concrete sarcophagus, so it is now relatively safe to travel to the long as one does not step off of the roadway and does not stand in the wrong places.

The map above shows our journey through the dead zone. Radiation was absorbed by the soil and is now found in apples and mushrooms. It is not retained by asphalt, which makes riding through this area possible.

I have never had problems with the dosimeter guys who man the checkpoints. They are experts, and if they find radiation on your vehicle they gave it a chemical shower. I don't count those couple of times when "experts" tried to invent an excuse to give me a shower because those had a lot more to do with physical biology than biological physics!

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