Fotografie Hiking Reisen Urban Exploration

Exploring the Duga Radar

Radiation ☢ : 0.25 µS/h

Back in the stalker flat, we prepared our stuff for moving out to the Duga radar and had dinner. That said, it was this moment, we realized we had no plan how (or where) to go to the toilet in Pripyat. Obviously, there is neither running water nor many undestroyed bathrooms. Our guide told us that stalkers go to toilet from 7th floor upwards. For ‘big business’ we should go to the 9th floor. This actually became a dictum for us for the rest of the vacation – and we still use it to the present day as an inside joke.

We packed our bags (food and water included) and took care of our feet – at least Koko and me, while the guide went to the roof to do some phone calls. Only there you can get network coverage of some decency in Pripyat – up to 4G.

Going to cheat ourselves to the Duga radar

Although we didn’t hike that day, we still made some distance – around 9 kilometres. Unfortunately, our walking speed slowed down over the day. Kokos blisters were really looking bad by now and I also got 2 ones during the day. Our guide most certainly noticed. We knew the Ukrainian government was planning to drastically increase the fines on Friday. So, our plan was to leave the exclusion zone at Thursday evening again. When our survival expert returned to us, he told us he has good news for us, but he wasn’t sure how we would react to it.

He revealed, that he called a man, who legitimately works in the exclusion zone. He did offer us an illegal stalker taxi ride to the Duga to give our feet a break. Bjarke and Felix weren’t too happy about it, but together we decided to accept for the reasons above.

Спокойная ночь (calm night)

As we stood together, ready to move out, the guide started to cite:

“Thank you for the flat, we will now search for another one. Let’s move out into the calm night. Good night.”

Cited from memory.

He pulled out his phone and started to play the song “Кино – Спокойная ночь”, and kept it playing while we descended the staircase. This song in particular is quite popular among stalkers, according to him.

We sneaked out of Pripyat and walked to the meeting point, where the taxi was waiting for us. We made a short detour and suddenly stood right in front of “the bucket”, a digger claw. The rusting machinery was used to clear-up radioactive graphite that had blown out of reactor four when it exploded 34 years ago. And yet, it still emits vast amounts of alpha, beta and gamma radiation. The radiation is in fact so high, so that we – for the first time on this trip – deliberately chose not to go nearer than 4-5 meters. Our geiger counters still could not detect alpha radiation.

Unfortunately I did not pull out the camera, so we only took some photos with our phones.

Radiation ☢ : 0.66 µS/h
Radiation ☢ : 0.66 µS/h

Finding a place to stay for the night – again

After being dropped off near the Duga, we chose a cozy house in the east and opted for the roof this time. We all fell asleep quickly under the night sky. But at night I got woken up twice by relatively loud metallic noises from the direction of the radar. It was far louder than every other sound we heard from – presumably – scrappers before. The guide heard it, too and told us during breakfast, that it was most probably the Duga structure crumbling – especially the older of the two ones. This isn’t surprising at all, as it didn’t receive maintenance or repairs for over 34 years now.

It’s Duga time!

Finally. I was really looking forward to explore the radar. We stashed our backpacks in the forest and approached the radar in early dusk. But I was very nervous, because this is one of the heavier guarded structures in the zone. Being prepared to run or hide at any moment, I was reluctant to take the camera with me. It would have slowed me down and is very uncomfortable to handle, dangling around the shoulder.

The danger of guards entering the scene was not too abstract, because the morning watch change was supposed to happen soon.

Only twenty’ish meters away the huge metal structure appeared against the sky – right in front of us. This was actually intended, as the specific mix of trees and bushes was deliberately planted to camouflage the radar from curious eyes.

After Felix climbed a couple of stories, he decided to come back down. It was just not worth it, to be easily seen from hundreds of meters – or even kilometres away.

Duga control facility

So we chose to rather spend more time exploring the control facility.

If you missed it, read the last article where we explore Pripyat. Be sure not to miss the next part of this series, where we will explore a small abandoned village.


Seit Kindheitstagen ist der Computer sein Begleiter. Was mit Linux anfing, wurde 2005 ein/e Beruf/ung, die weit über den Arbeitsplatz hinausgeht. Durch stetige Weiterentwicklung fasste er auch im *BSD Segment Fuß und bietet mittlerweile professionelle Lösungen im Bereich Hosting, Networking und Infrastruktur an. Als Ausgleich beschäftigt er sich neben Computerspielen mit der Fotografie.

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