26
Feb

A History Lesson and More

   Posted by: John   in Money and Shopping, Not So Funny Stuff

The Russian Northern coast is a vast territory that goes for several thousand miles, all inside the Polar Circle. Long polar winters mean no daylight at all for 100 days per year.  The days change without any sign of the sun rising above the horizon.

The Northern coast was always the short way for cargo boats to travel from the Eastern part of Russia to the West. These days this trip can be made fairly easily by use of satellite navigation equipment like GPS, but during the Soviet Era they had none of this.

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union decided to build a chain of lighthouses to guide ships in the dark polar night across the uninhabited shores of the Soviet Russian Empire. So a series of such lighthouses was erected. They had to be fully autonomous because they were situated hundreds and hundreds miles aways from any populated areas. After reviewing different ideas on how to make them work for years without service and any external power, Soviet engineers decided to implement atomic energy to power the structures. Special lightweight small atomic reactors were produced in limited series, delivered to the Polar Circle lands and installed in the lighthouses. Those small reactors could work in independent mode for years and didn’t require any human interference. It was a kind of robot-lighthouse which counted the time of the year and the length of the daylight, turned on its lights when it was needed and sent radio signals to near by ships to warn them on their journey. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the unattended automatic lighthouses did the job for some time, but eventually they collapsed too. Looters started stealing the metals from lighthouses. They didn’t care or maybe didn’t know the meaning of the “Radioactive Danger” signs and ignored them, breaking in and destroying the equipment. It sounds creepy but they broke into the reactors too causing many of the structures to become radioactively polluted.

These photos are from a trip to the one such structure, the most close to the populated areas of the Russian far east. 

Lighthouse

Lone Outpost

Looking up the tower

Lighthouse Tower

Radiation Warning

Now I probably would not have thought much about these normally, but I happen to be reading a book called “Dead Or Alive”, by Tom Clancy and Grant Blackwood. If you are familiar with the Jack Ryan series, you know that the series about Ryan felt like it ended when he was President of the United States. The book “Teeth of the Tiger” (followed by “Dead or Alive”) removes the focus from Jack Ryan and shifts it to Jack Ryan Junior and two cousins, Brian and Dominic Caruso. The novels deal largely with terrorism and counter-terrorism.

In “Dead or Alive”, muslim terrorists are collecting pieces to build a nuclear device.  One place a group goes to is a derelict Russian automatic lighthouse, like the one in the pictures above, to retrieve the reactor.  What’s funny is that I never knew these lighthouses had existed before. Clancy’s novels are nearly always true to life and largely believable, right down to historical people and events. I find it interesting that I would read about these lighthouses in a novel and not 24 hours later stumble onto a link that features them. 

And, if you read the book…Ryan’s successor in the White House…Clancy paints an amazing picture of an inept and failed president, one who has surrounded himself with yes-men (and women), has no back-bone, and whose entire administration, including himself, are in over their heads but don’t realize it.  Kind of sounds like our current administration.  I think Clancy has outdone himself when it comes to indicting Obama and his cronies in these 2 books.  A modern Mark Twain if I have ever read one.

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 26th, 2012 at 3:08 pm and is filed under Money and Shopping, Not So Funny Stuff. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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