Το ταξίδι του 1.000.000στου Land Rover Discovery συνεχίζεται και πλέον το πλήρωμα, αφού επισκέφτηκε το Μιλάνο, το Σάλτσμπουργκ, τη Βιένη, τη Βουδαπέστη, το Κίεβο, βρίσκεται στην Ουκρανία όπου επισκέφτηκε τόσο το εργοστάσιο και τη γύρω περιοχή στο Τσερνομπίλ όσο και μια πρώην στρατιωτική βάση υποβρυχίων στη πόλη Balaklava η οποία είναι κρυμμένη μέσα στο βουνό.
Εκπληκτικές φωτογραφίες με την αποστολή να βρίσκεται πλέον στο Καζακστάν. Αν θέλεις να δεις και άλλες από το ταξίδι το οποίο θα καταλήξει στο Πεκίνο της Κίνας στις 23 του Απρίλη, καλύπτοντας συνολικά περισσότερα από 8.000 χλμ ρίξε μια ματιά στο ειδικό site. Περισσότερες λεπτομέρειες μπορείς να βρεις στο δελτίο τύπου που ακολουθεί.
Journey Of Discovery: Journey Through Former Soviet Submarine Base
In 1953, Joseph Stalin signed the plans for a top-secret nuclear submarine base that would become the operational home for the fearsome Soviet Black Sea Fleet.
Hidden inside the base of a mountain in the port town of Balaklava on Ukraine’s Crimean coast, the 15,300 square foot facility took nine years to build and its entrance was camouflaged from view from any spy plane. It could survive a direct nuclear hit and at maximum capacity could hold 3,000 people with supplies to sustain them for a month. Best of all, the vast subs that slunk in and out of here between tours of duty could enter and leave underwater, keeping them from prying eyes at all times.
Once the most sensitive and secretive of Soviet Cold War hotspots, today it is preserved as a museum – and as the Land Rover Journey of Discovery passed through town on its 8,000 mile route to Beijing, the vehicles were given unique authorisation to drive through the labyrinth of tunnels inside. They were the first to do so since the Soviet trucks and trailers that ferried in missiles, supplies and essentials over its 40 years of operation.
Driving through the cavernous entrance carved into the heavy rock of the mountain was pure James Bond, but the base that unfolded inside was a hard-hitting mix of superspy fantasy and the hard reality of the Cold War world in which it played such a key part.
The local guide explained how the facility was split into two clear sections either side of the huge kilometre-long submarine channel that ran through the centre of it, one side used for the operational running of the base and the other for arming the nuclear warheads. Then she dropped a bombshell of her own.
She had worked on the operational side of the base for five years with level-two security clearance – just one step below the highest possible – yet in all her time there she had never even known the nuclear side existed. The first she knew of it was when she began guiding tours here years later.
As she puts it: “it was in our culture then not to ask about what didn’t concern us. A common saying at the time was ‘the less you know, the better you sleep’.”
Not only was this place so secretive that even its own employees were kept in the dark, every possible measure was taken to keep it from the outside world too. This included removing Balaklava from all maps in 1957 (it would be 1992 before it reappeared) and even employees’ family members from neighbouring Sevastopol – itself a closed city that needed heavy security clearance to access – were put through extensive vetting before any visits to loved ones were allowed.
Inside the base we first toured the operational side, working our way through the broad network of tunnels until we came to the dry dock, so large that it was capable of holding a 300-foot submarine.
Beside the dry dock was the huge submarine channel itself, with space for six such subs end to end. Curved to deflect any blast inside the base, the channel is lined with steel gangways above head height. It must have been a fearsome environment when in full flow, with a hulking sub sitting in the black water and the loud echoes of urgent footfalls, the clanking of tools and the humming of generators.
Crossing to the other side of the base became even more interesting. Here even the tunnels making up the connecting network within were curved for blast protection, because this was where the missiles themselves were armed.
We saw the very cabinet where the radioactive parts of the weapons were stored. Now empty, its massive steel roller door sits ajar just as it was left when the lethal payload it once concealed was taken from here by the Soviet authorities.
Finally, we came to the epicentre of this underground lair, the room that stored the armed missiles. It looks innocuous now, but to imagine this place primed with as many as 50 nuclear devices is sobering indeed.
As a final unusual touch, our guide pointed out a simple looking plastic mount, similar to a small patio light, attached to the wall of the room and holding a solitary human hair. This most basic of devices monitored the humidity in the room, which had to be critically maintained at 60 per cent – deviation either way could have resulted in an explosion large enough to destroy the entire base, not to mention the mountain that housed it and much of the surrounding area. If the hair began bending, that was the engineers’ cue to adjust the ventilation, and quickly.
Rolling back out into the sunlight of Balaklava’s bay was almost as odd as driving in had been, but for quite different reasons.
Now instead of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, the bay is home to a glittering array of yachts from all over the world and at the water’s edge instead of subs skulking in and out, a throng of locals were indulging in a spot of fishing while shooting the breeze over a couple of beers.
If that isn’t a sign of progress, I don’t know what is.
Journey Of Discovery: Leaving Ukraine & Into Russia
A weekly round-up of events on the road as Land Rover’s Journey of Discovery travels 8,000 miles from Birmingham to Beijing, uncovering a unique selection of stories en-route. The trip aims to raise £1m for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The Journey of Discovery quite literally changes scale this week as it goes from the miniature to the massive. The intricate micro art three-and-a-half millimetre model boat visited last week would be absolutely lost in the gargantuan submarine holding pens that would be one of the next stops on the Journey of Discovery. Situated at the port town of Balaklava, Ukraine, the once top secret submarine base for the Soviet’s Black Sea Fleet offers an incredible, and sizeable reminder of the Cold War.
With its ability to survive a direct nuclear hit and home and sustain 3,000 people for over a month, the Crimean coast submarine shelter is now preserved as a museum. Special permission allowed the Journey of Discovery Land Rovers to drive into the base itself. Illuminating the dark, cavernous tunnels with powerful headlamps the Land Rovers travelled into areas that once housed submarines as vast as 300 ft in length and packing some terrifying, and world-changing, firepower.
Off the map since 1957, the town was re-introduced to the world in 1992. It is almost inconceivable that in living memory such a secret place existed. That the Journey of Discovery had such unfettered access to this incredible and once highly secretive Cold War relic is a remarkable indicator of the changes the world has witnessed. That is obvious too in Balaklava’s bay, now filled by a glittering array of expensive yachts from around the world rather than a sinister submarine fleet.
Leaving subterranean submarine bases behind the Journey of Discovery set off en-route to Tula. A brief diversion allowed everyone to encounter a little bit more Russian history – automotive this time.
This glimpse into Russian automotive history was found at the end of a long, deeply rutted driveway covered with deep snow. Easy enough for the Discoverys. At the driveway’s end resides a unique collection of cars owned by Mikhail Krasinets. Two fields full of around 300 examples of Soviet vehicles, everything from the everyday Moskvich 1500 that was the preserve of the few lucky enough to afford private transport, to the 1961 Gaz Chaika which would have been reserved for the very highest Communist Party officials.
A former Russian factory rally driver and Moskvich test driver, Krasinets’ collection might not be museum quality but it’s an intriguing insight into Soviet motoring, the comfort, refinement and capability of the Discoverys a world away from these simple, austere machines. That comfort and capability is greatly appreciated as the team negotiates the rough track back to tarmac.
Leaving Tula – a town famous for being the birthplace of ‘War and Peace’ novelist Leo Tolstoy – the Journey of Discovery makes a pit-stop at Tula’s finest gingerbread bakery. The recipe for the heavy, sweet and tasty gingerbread is as closely guarded a secret as the Balaklava submarine base used to be, though it’ll be welcome sustenance as the Journey continues to travel East on its 8,000 mile trip to Beijing.
Before it gets there, the journey will visit Moscow, where the team will be enjoying the sights of the capital city, mixing with local artists and even having a sauna. A mobile sauna, of course. As the wheels keep turning on the Journey of Discovery one thing is for certain, with boots brimming with gingerbread nobody will be going hungry for a while!
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Land Rover Journey Of Discovery Into Chernobyl
The Journey of Discovery expedition team is one of the first western groups to take a tour right up to the infamous nuclear plant and through the ghost town of Pripyat.
In the early hours of April 26, 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl powerplant exploded and the world’s worst ever nuclear disaster unfolded. Now, 26 years later, that may be a distant memory for many, but not for those who were there that fateful day.
Valeriy Zabayaka was one of the plant workers who became a ‘liquidator’, one of thousands tasked with the awful job of clearing the radioactive disaster zone. Tall, broad and strapping with a heavy moustache and a handshake that could crush granite he’s every inch the iconic Soviet hero. While his eyes don’t belie the horrors he has seen, his words tell a different story.
“When I heard about the explosion no one told us the radiation level was life-threatening. This was the time of the former Soviet Union and the authorities were hiding the information about the danger from us.
“The level of radiation where I worked was already very dangerous. I was in a group of 20 and only six of us are still alive. My health is damaged.”
When asked whether he had a choice in becoming a liquidator, he claims he did. Given his time again however, he admits he may have chosen differently.
“I was young and Pripyat city in Chernobyl was like the motherland to me. Today, maybe I would make a different decision, but back then there was only one. When I left after liquidating though, people I knew well looked at me like a stranger.”
The team from Land Rover’s Journey of Discovery met Zabayaka during their own trip inside the exclusion zone that surrounds the plant, which is still leaking radiation today. After his sobering testimony, they drove on towards his beloved Pripyat.
Before the disaster it was a bustling city of 50,000 just three kilometres from reactor number four.
Here, living standards were a world above anything the average Soviet citizen could dream of. Facilities and amenities abounded, shops were well stocked even with almost impossible to buy Western goods – outside of Moscow’s shops for the elite, for example, Pripyat was the only place in the Soviet Union where Chanel perfume was available.
Wages were over double the national average and life was good. Work was plentiful, and with plans to ultimately build 12 reactors at the plant, it stood as a glittering testament to Soviet technological expertise and all that was great there.
The explosion changed everything.
Today Pripyat is deserted. A desolate, crumbling ghost town of a place that was left in a hurry by a population who only thought they were leaving for a few days, it lies derelict in its entirety in the shadow of the reactor, testament to all the dreams that were crushed and lives that were lost from that fateful day.
Ascending the hotel’s steps to the top floor (“the lift is out of order because we didn’t pay last month’s electricity bill,” our guide jokes) is like walking the set of a horror movie, except here the horror is very real. It’s a fact that this place is deeply contaminated, but it’s hard to keep this in mind because this radioactive contamination is invisible, an insidious influence that remains beyond our sight.
As such, looking from the hotel’s once grand roof terrace, the ghost town image disappears. From a distance the buildings below still look slightly rundown, but the overall impression is little different from other poor towns in rural Russia. Even the lack of cars is almost the same in such places.
The team’s final stop is next to the reactor itself, which now sits under a makeshift cover of concrete, steel, lead and metal sheeting.
Here a guide explains how plans are in place for a better cover, or sarcophagus, to be built to help bring this dreadful chapter in history to some sort of a close. The trouble is, this is the same story that has been coming from here for over ten years – all that seems to change is the deadline which keeps extending, seemingly inexorably, into the future.
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Find out more at www.landrover.com/million
Short daily blogs, images and some short videos are available on an ongoing basis throughout the journey.
ABOUT THE JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY
To celebrate the millionth Discovery and to showcase the vehicle’s unique versatility and breadth of capability, Land Rover’s Journey of Discovery will cover 8,000 miles in 50 days from its birthplace in Birmingham, UK to one of its fastest growing markets, Beijing in China. It aims to raise £1 million for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The journey will pass through 13 countries – UK, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China – focusing on interesting stories en-route to provide engaging video, image and written content. This will include joining avalanche teams in the Alps, driving through a Cold War submarine city and even joining a trip into the heart of Chernobyl.
ABOUT THE FUNDRAISING PROJECT
The Journey of Discovery expedition aims to raise £1,000,000 (GBP) for Land Rover’s Global Humanitarian Partner, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The money will be used to support a much needed water sanitation project in Uganda (www.landrover.com/million).
This is in addition to the three-year global initiative “Reaching Vulnerable People Around the World”. This initiative, launched in 2010, provides additional support for IFRC programmes in over 15 countries worldwide.