Monday, February 20, 2017

The wooden churches of Russia

Starting in 2002, British photographer Richard Davies made yearly trips around the Russian north to take photos of old wooden churches. He was inspired by the work of Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (1876 - 1942) a Russian artist, stage designer and illustrator of Russian Folk Tales who travelled to the North of Russia a century earlier.

During the summers of 1903 and 1904, the Russian Museum in St Petersburg sent Bilibin to a series of trips to the Vologda, Archangel and Olonets Provinces to collect works of folk art, which subsequently formed the basis of the museum's Ethnographic Department. Many of the photographs taken on these trips were used as illustrations in Bilibin's article of 1904 in the World of Art Magazine entitled 'Folk Art of the Russian North'. In the following years, these photographs were used to draw attention and support the restoration of those wooden churches. 

Recreating those trips, Davies found out that some of those churches have been lost. Some have been left to rot, some have been destroyed by lightning, countless others by ignorance, spite and neglect. Most of the churches remaining are in various states of decay. However, many churches have been saved by dedicated specialists and enthusiasts.

Davies hopes that his photographs, which have been exhibited around Europe and released in a book will raise awareness and inspire a restoration effort, similarly to Bilibin's photographs a century earlier.













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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Rio's Maracana Stadium, left deserted after the Olympics



Rio de Janeiro's iconic Maracanã Stadium has a very long history dating back to 1950. That was when it was inaugurated to host the 1950 World Cup where Brazil was beaten 2-0 from Uruguay. The total attendance of that game was 199,854, making it the world's largest stadium. 

In the following decades, Maracana hosted football matches between the major football clubs in Rio, domestic football cup finals, concerts, and sporting events, including the final round of 1989 Copa América, the 2007 Pan American Games, the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics

Although it was inaugurated in 1950, Maracana's construction didn't officially finish before 1965. In 1992, after the collapse of an upper stand during a football match which resulted in the death of 3 spectators, Maracana's capacity was greatly reduced and it was converted into an all-seater stadium. Another renovation in 2000 increased its capacity to 103,000, while a renovation that kept the stadium closed between 2005-2006 reduced it to 87,000.

Another major and costly reconstruction, which included the construction of a new roof, was launched in 2010 to prepare the stadium for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. 

After the Olympics, Maracana has remained empty and unused, as clubs and authorities argue over who should manage it. Although it is owned by the Rio de Janeiro's state government, officials have stopped paying for maintenance and security as the government has been hit hard by Brazil's deep economic crisis. According to media reports and photos, Maracana stadium has been looted and even cables have been stolen. 

Maracana Stadium is the latest victim of the Olympics curse, with sport venues and facilities left abandoned after a city hosts the Olympic Games. 




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Monday, February 13, 2017

The abandoned Rest hospital in south Wales



'The Rest' in Porthcawl, south Wales was established as a seaside convalescent hotel (nursing home) in 1862. It was built by Dr James Lewis, with the support of Florence Nightingale, the reformer of hospital nursing. Being an institution for working class people. the rest was maintained and supported by private contributors which included prominent landowners, industrialists, the trade union movement, friendly societies and a host of private individuals.

Among its first patients were the seven survivors of the Tynewydd Colliery disaster who had been trapped underground for 10 days. The Rest was rebuilt in the 1870s - 1880s and from 1915 it was used as an auxiliary military hospital. During the First and the Second World Wars, it provided care for 2,500 wounded soldiers from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

From 1946, the Rest returned to civilian use as a 56-bedroom convalescent hotel (nursing home). The Grade-II listed building shut its doors in 2013. It is currently on sale with with a price tag of £4 million ($4.9 million) and has full planning consent for 68 apartments. 






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Monday, February 6, 2017

The abandoned Zarnowiec nuclear power plant in Poland



Żarnowiec Nuclear Power Plant was supposed to become Poland's first nuclear power plant. Planning began in the early 1970's, with extensive research with the purpose to find the most suitable location. After several years, a site near the village of Żarnowiec50 km (31 miles) northwest of Gdańsk was chosen. The site was near the Baltic Sea and Lake Żarnowiec which was to be used for cooling.

Construction began in 1982 with completion of the first reactor planned for 1989 and the second for 1990. These dates were later extended by a year. The plant was planned to occupy 70 ha of land area, while the entire complex with dedicated construction facilities and supporting buildings would take 425 ha. In addition to 79 buildings of the reactor-housing compound, the complex included hundreds of supporting facilities, including housing for the staff, a meteorological station and a railway station.

Any public opposition for the project was initially silenced by the introduction of martial law in 1981. After the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 though, environmental organizations started an anti-nuclear campaign which quickly gained widespread support. The protest which was also supported by political parties, included roadblocks and hunger strikes. In 1987, the government finally caved in and announced a referendum. Although 86,1% voted against completing the power plant, government chose to ignore the not legally binding referendum and continue the construction works.  

The project was finally abandoned in 1990 after all the supporting buildings and 40% of the first reactor had been built, with the government citing the unclear safety status of the nuclear plant, among other reasons. By that time, 84% of the construction budget had already been spent. 

After the project's abandonment, some of the equipment that had already been installed was scrapped while other was stolen. Local government tried to attract investments in the area by establishing a Special Economic Zone, but there wasn't enough success. Currently there are only 20 companies operating in the area while most of the buildings remain abandoned. The total losses resulting from mismanagement of the abandoned property over the years have been calculated as high as $2 billion. 



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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Kalavantin Durg, an ancient Indian fort


Kalavantin Durg (fort), is located in the Indian state of Maharashtra, between Matheran and Panvel. Access to the top is possible only by ascending thousands of hand-carved steps. The so-called “Climb to Heaven" attracts many visitors every year.

Kalavantin Durg's history is often mixed with that of the nearby Prabalgad FortPrabalgad was built at 685-metre (2,300 foot) high stone spire around 530 BC during Bahmani Sultanate. Around 1458 AD the fort was taken over by Ahmadnagar Sultanate. In the following centuries it was conquered by the Mughal Empire, and became the theater of many battles by different dynasties. In 1826 it briefly became a home for Umaji Naik, a freedom fighter against the British Empire. 








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Monday, January 30, 2017

The abandoned Royal Masonic School for Boys


Some have called it 'the most scary abandoned building in the UK'. The Royal Masonic School for Boys opened in Bushey, Hertfordshire in 1903. It was built using money from charities of set up by masonic organizations in order to educate the sons of needy Freemasons. 

Another Masonic school was built  and a Junior School was added on the other side of The Avenue in 1929. Following a decline in pupil numbers the junior school closed in 1970, with the senior school closing in 1977.

After their closure, the buildings housed the United States International University, but as the buildings' condition declined, they fell into disrepair. Both schools were also commonly used for films (such as Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Lucky Jim, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and numerous TV shows) from the 1950s until recently. Part of the buildings have now been redeveloped as a gated housing development.



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Monday, January 23, 2017

The acoustic mirrors of the United Kingdom

During the 1930s, and leading up to World War II, the United Kingdom built a network of giant "acoustic mirrors" across its southern and eastern coast. The concrete structures, which differed in height and length, were an experimental early warning system. Built in the shape of spherical mirrors, they could reflecting and focus sound waves. Using them, military air defense forces could detect incoming enemy aircraft by listening for the sound of their engines.

The experimental nature of acoustic mirrors can be discerned by the different shapes of each of the three reflectors: one is a long, curved wall about 5 m (16 ft) high by 70 m (230 ft) long, while the other two are dish-shaped constructions approximately 4–5 m (13–16 ft) in diameter. Using microphones placed at the foci of the reflectors enabled a listener to detect the sound of aircraft far out over the English Channel. However, the increasing speed of aircraft during the 1930s, meant that they were detected when they were already too close (the system's range was about 25 miles) to deal with them.  

With the development of the Chain Home radar system at the beginning of World War II, the acoustic mirrors project was cancelled as it was now obsolete. Many of the acoustic mirrors built, stand till this day in coastal areas like at Denge on the Dungeness peninsula and at Hythe, Kent. Other examples exist in other parts of Britain (including Sunderland, Redcar, Boulby, Kilnsea). The only acoustic mirror constructed outside the UK, was built in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq in Malta


Thursday, January 19, 2017

The remains of Pegasus in Antarctica



The eerie picture of a huge plane half buried by snow in Antarctica is what remains from Pegasus, a Lockheed C-121J Super Constellation, operated by U.S. Navy that crash-landed on October 8th, 1970. Pegasus was on a flight from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo Station, the largest research station of Antarctica with a population of over 1,200 people during summer months. McMurdo is operated by the United States and built on land claimed by New Zealand. Non of the 80 people on board the plane were hurt. 

While weather predictions were favorable when Pegasus departed Christchurch, by the time it arrived to Antarctica, visibility had deteriorated to zero as blowing snow made the white ice runway invisible. On the second attempt to land, the right main landing gear hit a snow bank and separated. Then the right wing broke off, with the airplane sliding through the snow. 

Pegasus was abandoned where it landed as it would have been impossible to be repaired on site. After the accident, the airstrip was named Pegasus Field after the C-121 that crashed nearby. Pegasus Field closed down after the last flight departed on December 8, 2016. In early 2017, it was replaced by a new airstrip serving McMurdo Station, Phoenix Airfield.














Monday, January 16, 2017

Desertron: The world's largest Super Collider partly built, then abandoned in Texas


Desertron, or the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) which was its official name, was going to be the largest particle accelerator ever built. With a planned ring circumference of 54.1 miles (87.1 kilometers) and an energy of 20 TeV per proton, it would have greatly surpassed the current record held by the Large Hadron Collider of CERN in Switzerland which has a ring circumference 17 miles (27 kilometers) and energy of 6.5 TeV per proton.

The idea of a large super collider was first formally discussed in 1976. In the mid-1980s the project was reviewed by the US Department of Energy and, subsequently, construction began in Ellis County, Texas. By late 1993 when the project was cancelled, 17 shafts were sunk and 14.6 miles (23.5 kilometers) of tunnel were bored while $2 billion had already been spent. 

There were many reasons for the cancellation of the project with the primary one being the very high amount of cost. While in 1987 Congress was told the project could be completed for $4.4 billion, the amount was later estimated closer to $12 billion. Meanwhile, many congressmen argued that the money would be better spent in their fields, congress was generally trying to cut spending and President Clinton never really supported the project. Adding to this, many opposing physicists argued that the project was unreasonably expensive, even for the amount of knowledge that it could generate. Finally, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, came an end to the need to prove that American science was superior.  

The cancellation of the Desertron project apart from a setback for science research also caused a mild recession for the southern part of the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex. The main site was deeded to Ellis County which tried numerous times to sell the property. Finally in 2006 it was sold to an investment group. In 2012 the property was bought by chemical company Magnablend against some opposition from the local community. 


Monday, January 9, 2017

The ghost town of Ellaville in Florida


The town of Ellaville was founded in 1861 by businessman and future governor of Florida George Franklin Drew. Drew built a mansion on the western banks of the Suwannee River in Suwannee County. He named the town 'Ellaville' to honor Ella, his long-time African American servant. 

After the Civil War, Drew and his partner Louis Bucki opened a steam-operated sawmill. The mill soon became the largest in Florida, employing more than 500 people. Florida Railroad built a line to the town that had direct access to the mill and soon after, Ellaville was blooming. In the early 1870s the town had a train station, two schools, two churches, a steamboat dock, a masonic lodge, a commissary and a sawmill.

By then, George Drew had become one of the richest men in Florida, being elected governor in 1876. After his term, he sold his company share to the Bucki and he moved to Jacksonville. The mill was burned down in 1898 and although it was soon rebuilt, there was no longer a significant number of pine still left to harvest. Extensive floods during the 1900's and later the onset of the Great Depression attributed to the decline of Ellaville. The post office finally closed in 1942 and soon the town vanished. 

Little remains of Ellaville exist today. The Drew mansion, which had been vandalized over the years finally burned down during the 1970's. In 1986, the Hillman Bridge built in 1925 by the Federal Aid Project was abandoned and replaced by a new bridge across the river.





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