Dissecting the Ferris wheel
A dim story of the iconic location

Located north of the Palace of Culture «Energetik», the amusement park is one of the most iconic places in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone that year over year draws the attention of numerous visitors. Pictures made here one could find virtually in any trip report.

However, as it normally happens in the Zone, nearly every place has well behind it. This park is not an exception.

Let’s look closer

The park consists of five permanent installations:

  • Bumper cars for 20 people
  • Swings in the shape of boats
  • «Chamomile» carousel, used to be powered by two propellers and equipped with a hydraulic elevation mechanism that could tilt it during the ride.
  • Ferris wheel
  • Pneumatic shooting gallery

All of them (likely except shooting pavilion) were manufactured by mechanical factory «Attrakcion», based in Yeysk, Krasnoyarsk region, Russia. This plant was specialized in the production of various attractions for amusement parks, which are up to the present day could be found across the former Soviet Union.

The iconic Ferris wheel (named «Circular overview» by the manufacturer) was the most technically complex attraction produced by the factory and is based on a standard design from 1967 with a capacity of 80 people. There were various derivatives of this model that differ mostly by the design of cabins, however, that in Pripyat uses their original design.

Capacity 80 people per ride / 800 people per hour
Number of cabins 20
Height 27.5 m
Diameter 24.5 m
Weight 34.4 tons
Speed 0.18 turns / min
Power 30.1 KW

A word on a «Symbol of Pripyat» and «A wheel that did not make even a single turn».

In a popular culture during the last decade, it is quite often possible to see references to the Ferris wheel as a symbol of Pripyat. From the historical point of view, this statement is hard could be called correct — as a true historical symbol was a statue of Prometheus installed near a movie theater of the same name in District 1. At the same time, the amusement park was built shortly before the disaster and never has been officially open.

There is a well-known theory that Pripyat amusement park has been turned into operation for a short time during April 26-27 to distract inhabitants of the city from unfolding disaster. Supporters of the theory refer to this shot from «Unforgettable» movie by Mikhail Nazarenko, head of Pripyat-film amateur movie studio of the Palace of Culture of Pripyat, where we can see people attending the attractions.

Test run of a ferris wheel in Pripyat

However, it is not true.

According to memories of multiple inhabitants of Pripyat, for example, Alexander Sirota, a former resident and leading expert on Pripyat, the two last days of normal existence of the city in the scope of events were far from unusual. Although a lot of police, governmental and military vehicles, and staff appeared in the city, due to lack of information and understanding of the scale of the accident, a general perception of ongoing events among inhabitants was calm and did not have any prerequisites for panic. In other words, there was nothing to distract from.

Second, a closer look at the picture above reveals, that people are dressed in warm clothes, which hardly would be possible at the end of April. In 1986, these days were really warm already. In fact, they were made earlier, during March, during series of test runs before the official scheduled opening on May 1, 1986.

So technically, the park has operated. But just a little.

Contamination

The area of the amusement park is quite interesting from the point of radiological situation, as it is contaminated mostly with β-active sources, which in some cases give a density of flux over 9,000 particles * cm2 / min. At the same time, the γ-dose rate is relatively average — 0.6 – 2.6 µSv/h.

According to memories of some liquidators, a large asphalt square surrounding the attractions was used as a makeshift helipad during initial isolation works on Chernobyl NPP Unit IV. Although we yet could not find any documentary evidence of this, partly it can be confirmed by data of spectrometry we conducted in 2018, as isotope mixture that present on site is more typical for the local zone of the power plant, bringing to the conclusion that something large that once was there appeared near attractions.

Specifically, one of the accessible cabins of the Ferris wheel features a powerful 137Cs localized hotspot with the β-flux > 100,000 particles * cm2 / min and power of dose power rate γ > 180 µSv/h, and in the same time — 238Pu and 235U, which looks like a conglomerate of so-called hot particles transported by dust (from helicopter propellers?) and washed inside the cabin.

Other interesting hotspots are «conserved» contamination below new asphalt layers surrounding two centrally located manholes. Placed slightly lower than the initial pavement level, they had intensive drainage of contaminated surface waters that led to the accumulation of active materials close around. Somewhen after 1986, most probably during decontamination works, that pavement has been covered with a new layer of asphalt, thus fixing hot particles in between and forming concentrated sources with flux around 5,000 particles * cm2 / min.

From the point of safety, we strongly do not recommend climbing the attractions or touching them due to described reasons, as well as attempting to measure emission without equipment that can detect low-energy β, as otherwise, it will not give at least somehow full picture.

P. S.

There is one more, pretty funny secret out there. Those who have been to Pripyat's amusement park definitely noticed a barbed wire on concrete poles close to the wheel. We suggest our readers try to find out, why it is there. Hint: it is not related to the isolation perimeter of the city, but is very much connected to doors.

 

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