Cold War Relics – in both directions

Thursday, 4 August 2016

IMG_7378 - Duga-3 early detection array (Russian Woodpecker) - 540En route to the Chernobyl reactor and the ghost town of Pripyat we made a short detour to an amazing Cold War site. Here’s my diary entry: ‘a fascinating diversion to the Duga-3 early detection array (aka Russian Woodpecker), where the Russians watched out for missiles heading towards the Motherland from those untrustworthy Americans or NATO forces. I’m reminded of White Alice, the opposite construction I saw near Nome in Alaska back in July 2009, although this is far larger.

IMG_7388 - Duga-3 early detection array (Russian Woodpecker) - 540IMG_7400 - at the Duga-3 early detection array (Russian Woodpecker) - 270In total it stretches for half a km and if it wasn’t for its immense size it could easily be some bizarre art installation, it does look wonderfully, weirdly good. But of course it never worked, there’s a joke about how it would have been more effective climbing up to the crows-nest-like lookouts at the top and watching for incoming missiles with binoculars.’

◄ fading Soviet-era painting on one of the Woodpecker buildings.

IMG_4007 - 540And here’s my diary entry from my visit to White Alice. I was in Alaska with an LP-TV/National Geographic film crew: ‘As we head back to George’s we decide to divert to White Alice, atop Mt Anvil overlooking Nome, passing a herd of musk oxen en route. It’s a weird cold war relic, four strange corrugated-iron sound reflector structures which used to listen to some sort of Russian activity. From down in the town they look like a bizarre space age Stonehenge, closer up they look like a Victorian-era film set for a shoot of War of the Worlds.

Standing up there I do a piece to camera about this being a would-not-be-dead-for-quids moment, the Bering Straits below, the International Dateline and Russia not far to the west, the Arctic Circle not far to the north, these crazy Cold War structure at our feet, the honky tonk frontier town of Nome below us and damn it, it’s midnight.’