Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bytes and Pieces



No, not these . . . 

Those are samosas.

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone covers an area of approximately 2,600 km2 (1,000 sq mi) in Ukraine immediately surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant where radioactive contamination from fallout is highest and public access and inhabitation are restricted. 

Entrance to the Exclusion Zone at Checkpoint "Dityatki"

The Exclusion Zone is home to a population of settlers, mostly elderly, who are known as “samosely”, meaning “self settlers”. Yes, you read that right . . . people who choose to live in Radiationland. 

Two samosely, 2007

Some facts:
  • The samosely are people who either refused to evacuate the area or secretly resettled after it was cordoned off.
  • The majority of the samosely are elderly people who already lived in the area prior to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, although some are disaffected settlers from outside the region.
  • When the population was evacuated, they were initially told they could return in a few days, and many faced discrimination in areas of government resettlement. 
  • The zone is estimated to be home to 197 samosely living in 11 villages. This number is down from previous estimates of 314 in 2007 and 1,200 in 1986. The average age is 63.
  • After attempts to keep them out, the authorities became reconciled to their presence and have allowed them limited supporting services. Residents are now informally permitted to stay by the Ukrainian government.
  • During the past 25 years, there were more than 900 deaths and just one birth in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The only known birth occurred on 25 August 1999, when 46-year-old Lydia Sovenko gave birth to a healthy girl. Both Lydia and her husband, Mikhail Bedernikov had returned to Chernobyl a few months earlier. The child, Maria Sovenko lived in Chernobyl until 2006. She now lives in a village outside the Exclusion Zone, attending a boarding school. Maria returns to Chernobyl only on weekends, to meet her mother who still lives there.

Lydia Savenko and her 6 year old daughter, Maria, 2006.

Date unknown


An obelisk is a four-sided tapering shaft with a pyramidal top, originally erected in pairs at the entrances of ancient Egyptian temples. The Egyptian obelisk was carved from a single piece of stone, usually red granite from the quarries at Aswan.

As with many Egyptian artefacts, major powers saw, conquered and took, back to their own countries for display. A good example is Cleopatra's Needle, the popular name for each of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City during the nineteenth century. The obelisks in London and New York are a pair, and the one in Paris is also part of a pair originally from a different site in Luxor, where its twin remains. Although all three needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, their shared nickname is a misnomer, as they have no connection with the Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime.

Cleopatra’s Needle, London

Close up of the London Needle

As noted above, the obelisks of ancient Egypt came from the granite quarries located along the Nile, in the city of Aswan. These quarries supplied some of the finest quality stones for the construction of temples, sculptures and monuments in ancient Egypt. Cleopatra's Needle(s) came from these quarries, as did several structures in the pyramids,

In the northern region of Aswan’s stone quarries lies an unfinished obelisk, resting on its side. Intended to be the tallest and the largest obelisk ever erected in Ancient Egypt, the project was abandoned when cracks began appearing in the granite. The unfinished obelisk remains in situ, attached by its base to the bedrock, as it has done for the last 3,500 years.

Some facts:
  • This stone block was intended to be 36m/120ft tall obelisk and it is estimated that it would have weighed more than 1000 tons.
  • It would have had to be transported 800 kilometres/500 miles from Aswan to Cairo.
  • It is believed that the obelisk was constructed and abandoned during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut in the 15th century BC. 
  • Archaeologists believe that the Ancient Egyptians used small balls of Dolerite, which is a type of rock harder than granite, to cut through the rock.
  • To separate the carved obelisk from the bedrock, they dug small cavities along the intended line of separation and those cavities were filled with wood spikes. The wood was then thoroughly wetted with water until it expanded causing the rock to crack along the separation line.

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