wrecked ships aral sea moynaq uzbekistan

Cemetery of Ships – The Aral Sea Disaster in Uzbekistan

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

And to rub that fact in your face: the cemetery of stranded ships at Moynaq, once a fishing port, is now located 170 km from the actual shores of the Aral Sea!

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

The Aral Sea’s problems began in the 1940s when the Soviet Union decided to grow cotton in the deserts.

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 moynaq

The result – 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.

The wrecked ships at Moynaq are now 170 km from the shores of the Aral Sea today.

cemetery of ships aral sea uzbekistan
A cemetery of ships at the dead Aral Sea.

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 have left for Russia and other regions to look for work.

A once-mild climate created by the Aral Sea has turned extreme in Moynaq.

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, 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 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.

A perfect, bleak day for visiting the cemetery of ships at the 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.

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.

wedding party locals moynaq uzbekistan
The Uzbek wedding party at the Aral sea viewpoint, 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 empty sea, that I’d come to contemplate.

transportation leaving moynaq 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.

MRP adds his spin on the disaster at the Aral Sea.

Aral Sea disaster – Moynaq Uzbekistan – THE CANDY TRAIL comments
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Travels in Uzbekistan – 2011


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