wrecked ships aral sea moynaq uzbekistan

Cemetery of Ships – The Aral Sea Disaster at Moynaq ( Uzbekistan )

When it comes to man-made fu*k-ups – it’s really difficult to top the Aral Sea disaster.

And to rub this further in your face: the stranded ships at Moynaq – once a fishing port, are now 170 km from the shores of the Aral Sea.

images aral sea ships pictures in sand at moynaq in uzbekistan
Dead ships in the sand at the defunct port of Moynaq – once on shores of the sea, Uzbekistan.

The Aral Sea disaster began in the 1940s

Back then, the Soviet Union had decided to grow cotton in the desert.

The project was successful.

Cotton was grown in huge amounts and Uzbekistan (then part of the USSR) was a major exporter, for a time.

But the irrigation canals had diverted water from two major rivers and in doing so, they sapped the replenishing waters of the Aral Sea.

rusty ships aral sea images at moynaq in uzbekistan
Rusty hulls amid the ship graveyard at Moynaq.

For the Aral Sea – the result was a DISASTER !!!

Since the 1960s, the world’s 4th largest inland body of water has shrunk to 10% of its original size.

And has split into smaller lakes.

cemetery of ships at aral sea moynaq in uzbekistan
Aral Sea ship graveyard at Moynaq in Uzbekistan.

The Aral Sea shrinking has destroyed Moynaq

In the Aral Sea that remains, fish stocks are very low (due to increased salinity in water).

This has crushed industry in Moynaq.

And there’s been no fishing, canning or ship-building industries since the 1980s, so thousands of men left for Russia and other regions looking for work.

dusty streets of moynaq at aral sea in uzbekistan
Dusty streets of Moynaq on a freezing, gusty Autumn’s day on the desert shoreline of the Aral Sea.

Now, shorter, hotter summers meet longer, colder winters.

And respiratory problems are common because of increased sand and dust storms.


The day I visited the Aral Sea – rather, the Aral Desert – it was freezing

Lashed by biting Siberian winds. Deserted, dusty blowing streets, teasing sleet, overcast skies.

Only occasional glimpses of the sun around sunset.

It was the perfect brutish weather for this made-man hell-spot.

Big blue, sunny skies just wouldn’t seem right.

To enhance the mood, I drank a bottle of red wine (and later a 1.5 liter of 7% beer) to counter the chill.

cemetery of ships Aral Sea Moynaq
A perfect – bleak – day for visiting the cemetery of ships at the Aral Sea, Moynaq.

There I wandered amazed amid rusty, wrecked ships in bleak sand and scrub.

During the afternoon, a couple of young lads joined me.

They saw the ships as an amazing playground.

Others call it a “graveyard of ships”.

Later, a local wedding party turned up to pose at the vista point where the coast once was. Some group photos for a few freezing minutes.

aral sea monument at moynaq uzbekistan
The Uzbek wedding party at the Aral sea viewpoint at Moynaq, where once the water reached. BELOW: Two boys that hang-out with me awhile; a curious old guy around dusk.

They invited me for several vodka toasts, which I accepted.

And from that point, my memory deserted me – evaporating like the sea that I’d come to contemplate.

Public transport scenes leaving moynaq in uzbekistan
It was very difficult getting public transport out of Moynaq. BELOW: I also got on the only departing bus – everyone pushing aboard but within 10 km, I got out as it was too hot and crowded in my winter clothes. So I waited on this road, and luckily got a squeezing into a minivan driven by a doctor, who moonlighted as a taxi driver. He spoke some English and told me how as a boy, he used to go swimming in the Aral Sea when it was next to Moynaq.

michael-robert-powell traveler at aral sea cemetery of ships at moynaq in uzbekistan
MRP adds his spin on the disaster at the Aral Sea in Moynaq in Uzbekistan.

In the old days, when I allowed comments.

Travels in Uzbekistan – 2011


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