Peace and Tranquility Among Men Mural in the Zone of Alienation, Ukraine

Copyright Mike Foo

Copyright Mike Foo

The political picture in the Ukraine seems to get more muddled by the day.  At Lost Places, we know that the past is always around us in one form or another.  Our landscape, both real and imagined, is the result of what went before.  This week, as we hope for a peaceful solution to events in the Ukraine, we take a look at this stunning photograph by Mike Foo, whose work can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/mfoo/

This photograph comes from a series Mike shot while exploring the Zone of Alienation in the Ukraine.  That may sound like something from a science fiction movie, but it is unfortunately a very real place.  The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone of Alienation is a 1,000-square mile zone established by the Soviet Union shortly after the April 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.  The disaster was caused by an unexpected power surge at the plant, culminating in a series of steam explosions.  Fires from the explosions sent radioactive fallout into the air, which spread over a wide region.

The power plant was in the Polesia region of the Ukraine, an area of woodland and marshes that was a staging ground for partisan resistance against the Nazi Army.  Some 120,000 people lived in the area prior to the disaster.  Most of the population was centered in the cities of Chernobyl and Pripyat.  This week’s photo was taken in a school in Pripyat last October.  Like all buildings in the region, the school is abandoned, leaving behind a glimpse into the area as it was in 1986.  The region is officially abandoned, but urban explorers, game poachers, metal scavengers, and tourists can still be found roaming the countryside.  Tourism has become more common to the area since the area was featured in two video games: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl, both released in 2007.

The design on the wall in the foreground of the photo is a Soviet era mural, according to Foo, denoting “peace and tranquility among men.”  Good advice from the Ukraine of the past.  Let us hope our leaders take it under advisement in the Ukraine of the future.

Cold War Nike Missile Silo Near Los Angeles

Copyright Sobaire Schroat

Copyright Sobaire Schroat

Brinksmanship.  It is a word whose origins may seem obscure to the generation born after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  It is a word of the Cold War, the global struggle for supremacy between the opposing ideologies of the United States and the Soviet Union.  The term “brinksmanship” was coined by former U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.  It refers to the act of pushing one’s military to the brink of war to force an opposing nation to meet your demands.  Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, seems to be taking a page from the U.S. Cold War playbook and engaging in some brinksmanship of his own as the Russian military inches closer to intervention in the Ukraine.

This week on Lost Places we have a relic from the era of brinksmanship in the form of LA-88, a former U.S. Army Nike missile base in the hills of Chatsworth, California, near Los Angeles.  During the Cold War, Project Nike developed the first U.S. anti-aircraft missile system, the Nike Ajax in 1953.  These were followed by the Nike Hercules in 1958, and the Nike Zeus in 1962, which could intercept Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs).

This particular site is currently used for Los Angeles Police Department Bomb Squad and SWAT team training.  Photographer Sobaire Schroat ran afoul of the LAPD when he visited the site and found the entrance to the site open.  Schroat spent an hour underground photographing the site, but met with a surprise when he climbed back up.

“About fifteen seconds after I resurfaced, an LAPD helicopter rose up out of nowhere.” Schroat writes.  “You are on federal private property, leave the premises immediately.  This was being repeated over a speaker from the helicopter.  I left quickly, being escorted by the LAPD helicopter the whole way.  I was worried that they were waiting for me at the bottom of the trail where I had parked my car.”

Fortunately for Schroat, they were not.  Fortunately for us, he took this eerie glimpse into an era fraught with military standoffs between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.  For a glimpse into Schroat’s run-in with the LAPD, check out this video of the incident at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kml3wn9q9ZI

Abandoned Stairs in Wendt, South Dakota

Photo Copyright Alex Benison

Copyright Alex Benison

This week Lost Places goes back to the Dakotas–this time to South Dakota.  This fantastic shot was taken by Denver-based photographer Alex Benison in Wendt, South Dakota.  More of his work can be found at alexbenison.imagekind.com.  Alex found the house during a trip down gravel-strewn Bad River Road in central South Dakota.  The road, a 45-mile stretch between Fort Pierre and Midland, is something of a photographer’s dream.  The stretch includes prairies, waterways, herds of buffalo, and even a ghost town.

The ghost town is Capa, South Dakota, which by all reports was never really that big anyway.  The nearby bison belong to Ted Turner, founder of CNN, and owner of the 141,357-acre ranch.  The ranch features native grassland, rolling hills, and a wide assortment of wildlife, including elk, mountain lions, coyotes, prairie chickens, pheasant, and grouse.

The mouth of the Bad River is historically significant.  It was there that explorers Lewis and Clark encountered the Teton Sioux, a nomadic and warlike branch of the Sioux Nation, led by Chief Black Buffalo.  War and epidemic eventually took its toll on the Teton Sioux–and from the looks of this photograph, time is taking its toll on this house.

Abandoned Car Near Hope, British Columbia

Abandoned Car Near Hope, British Columbia

This week we literally go off the beaten path in British Columbia, Canada, courtesy of Vancouver photographer Don Schuetze.

Don writes: “On a recent visit to Hope, which is where the Fraser Valley hits the mountains, I went for a walk along a trail that used to be part of the Kettle Valley Railway. The walk itself wasn’t very exciting: railway beds tend to be rather straight, but off to the side was this old car. How did it end up here? Was it parked with the thought that they’d get it fixed real soon or did some clown drive it along the tracks and then off into the ditch?”

The Kettle Valley Steam Railway is a heritage railway. Heritage railways are interactive living history railways that carry passengers and preserve specific time periods of the past. The Kettle Valley Steam Railway trains are pulled by a steam locomotive built in 1912. The railway leaves from Praire Valley railway station in Summerland, British Columbia. The Prairie Valley station, formerly part of Canadian Pacific Railway, sat abandoned from 1961 to 1989. Alas, it looks like the preservationists were too late to save the automobile in this week’s photo.

Fortunately for us, Don’s camera caught a glimpse of the past before the weeds take over. I wonder what make and model that car is anyway?

Headstones Near Litchville, North Dakota

Headstones Near Litchville, North Dakota

This week’s picture comes from photographer Anthony Kretowicz. It is a shot of a small early settlers’ cemetery roughly seven miles from Litchville, North Dakota. Litchville itself only houses about 170 residents. The fact that we’re using it as a way-marker is proof of the sparse population of this part of the United States.

North and South Dakota both gained statehood on Novemeber 2, 1889, making them the 39th and 40th states to enter the Union. Most early settlers of the state were German-Americans and Scandinavian-Americans, along with New Englanders from the eastern U.S.