Fail Of The Week: Spinning The Pripyat Ferris Wheel

This multifaceted fail comes to us straight from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, where a group of friends apparently decided that a fun weekend project would be trying to turn over the iconic ferris wheel in the Pripyat Amusement Park. The [Kreosan] crew documented their admittedly very creative attempt at suicide in the video after the break, but we can save you some time by telling you right up front that the decades-old ferris wheel never actually rotates more than a few degrees. Though that’s hardly the key failure of this endeavour.

Even if you don’t understand anything they’re saying (we certainly don’t), it’s not too hard to follow along with this harebrained scheme.

Under cover of darkness, the troupe gains access to the mechanisms below the towering Soviet-era ride, and removes the brake unit mounted next to the motor. With the wheel now free spinning, the team is elated to see the mechanical advantage is such that spinning the shaft by hand is enough to cause a very slight rotation of the pulley and cables attached to the wheel.

Realizing they need more speed, the group then spends the rest of the night and apparently a good deal of the following day attempting to spin the mechanism using the rear wheel of one of their electric bicycles. But a rubber wheel held by hand against a rusty shaft, rather unsurprisingly, turns out to be a fairly poor mechanical linkage. They get a couple partial rotations on the pulleys, but still no serious movement.

One of the guys was working on the next phase of the inexplicably misguided plan, removing some heavy counterweights hanging under the ferris wheel, when a young woman shows up with a dosimeter and starts taking some measurements. Eventually, one of these moonlighting ferris wheel engineers uses the meter to observe the elevated radiation levels of the dirt and rust accumulated on his bare hands. This swiftly brings the operation to a close, and they all ride off on their bikes.

This was, without question, a monumentally stupid thing to do. Even if this was just a run-of-the-mill ferris wheel that had been abandoned and exposed to the elements for over thirty years, climbing on the thing and trying to get it to spin would be dangerous. But when you combine that with the fact it’s common knowledge to those who explore the Exclusion Zone that there are parts of the ferris wheel still emitting radiation at hundreds of times the normal background dose, this misadventure is a strong contender for the 2019 Darwin Award.

We’re lucky the remnants of Chernobyl’s number four reactor are locked away inside the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement, or else some up-and-coming Internet celebrity might try to get in there and spin up the turbines for a laugh. We’ve seen some pretty crazy stunts from [Kreosan], and we’d like to see more. So please, stay safe(r) guys!

67 thoughts on “Fail Of The Week: Spinning The Pripyat Ferris Wheel

  1. ” there are parts of the ferris wheel still emitting radiation at hundreds of times the normal background dose”

    So, about 200-600 mSv per year?

    In that case, they could spend a minimum of two weeks rolling around in the muck before they accumulate the dose equivalent of an abdominal CT scan in a hospital. As long as you’re not eating it, you’ll be fine.

    1. Though of course, the difference is that the CT scan happens at a rate of 20 mSv over so many minutes, while the radiation exposure at Pripryat is over so many weeks or months, which makes the effect even weaker. It’s like the difference between being pelted by raindrops vs. getting the whole rainfall dumped on you from a bucket at once.

      The biggest problem would be ingesting the dust, because it contains alpha emitters which have a greater effect when they’re inside your body as opposed to outside where they’re virtually harmless. The next problem is bio-accumulating heavy metals such as Caesium, which show up in the plants and animals so you should avoid eating anything off the land. Fortunately these heavy radioisotopes are quickly vanishing, and more than half of them have already decayed away.

      For the gamma emitters around the area, you’re more likely to get skin cancer from a sunburn.

          1. It’s actually kind of shocking and sad that the foliage and wildlife around Chernobyl is actually thriving more than it did before the accident. Normal human habitation is worse for nature than nuclear fallout.

            Yeah this guy’s gonna be fine. I think people have a knee jerk reaction towards radiation from certain sources, like it’s a binary that’s either fine or awful. If any of us fly in an airplane a few times a year over our careers we’re in more danger than if we rolled around in Chernobyl dust for a week. Mundane risk versus sexy risk. He should go back and get that ferris wheel working.

    2. Also important to note, all they need to do to be safe is a good shower to wash the dust off. For extra paranoia, dispose of the contaminated clothes as mild radioactive waste…

        1. Or wait a couple days for the cilia of their lungs to transport it out.

          When you inhale ordinary dust, it doesn’t stay in your lungs forever – unless you have damaged your lungs already by smoking etc.

    3. Of course, if radioactive rust accumulated on their hands, it has also been flying freely around in the air. And some of that air went into their lungs. And so did some fo the particles. And if those particles stay stuck in their lungs, they will be emitting radiation in that one place for the rest of their life. Which would be like some 50 years.

      And there are no records of any human ever surviving continuous radiation treatment in one single spot of their lungs for more than 50 years.

      1. We all regularly breathe in radioactive particles, you should avoid it, but I don’t expect them to have significantly increased their risk of cancer. Plenty of people still work there (the plant was still producing energy for many years after the disaster) or take touristic tours through Chernobyl without issue

      2. “And if those particles stay stuck in their lungs, they will be emitting radiation in that one place for the rest of their life. Which would be like some 50 years.”

        That’s the “hot particle” theory, which is basically false. The idea is that you get a radioactive particle stuck in your lungs and it stays exactly in one place for the rest of your life, so you’re more or less guaranteed to get cancer from it.

        In reality, the particle dissolves or diffuses elsewhere gradually and you eventually excrete it out, if you don’t cough it out before that – the human lungs do have to deal with dust and debris all the time, and they get rid of it by excreting mucus and slowly moving it up your throat where you’ll either swallow it or spit it out.

    4. Articles involving radiation are so easy to sensationalize. If something emits anything at all it can be expressed as X many times background levels and X is almost guaranteed to be a scary sounding number even if the actual amount of radiation amounts to nothing significant.

      And this wasn’t even necessary. The idea that someone actually thought of and tried to do this is more than interesting enough. And if one really wants to include something about safety, well trying to turn a giant wheel that has been rusting for 30 years should be plenty sufficient!

    5. The real question is which natural levels “Levels typically range from about 1.5 to 3.5 millisievert”
      “Several places are known in Iran, India and Europe where natural
      background radiation gives an annual dose of more than 50 mSv and up
      to 260 mSv (at Ramsar in Iran).”

      This kind of sensationalism is why some people are afraid of anything nuclear.

      1. Yes, the global nuclear industry would love to play down the risks, wouldn’t they. The industry that has always promoted the safety of nuclear energy, yet also promotes new designs as offering improved safety for some reason.

        People worry about “anything nuclear” because they’ve seen things like the death of Alexander Litvinenko or the continuing birth defects around the Soviet testing area in Kazakhstan.

        1. You can contain anything. France has had nuclear power for decades. I have not seen mass extinction there. Just good engineering. If you want to cure global warming, nuclear will have to be an element. That plus e-cars and you could solve a lot.

    1. It’s not a moral issue, it’s an educational one. The Ferris wheel was abandoned for a very good reason which these people ignored. We already know they don’t value their lives from what we’ve seen them doing in their other videos.

      1. I have no issue acknowledging there* stupidity , i have issue with journalists in general telling me how i should think, are people stupid? should I be outraged? should I be annoyed? we know what they are doing is likely to win a delayed Darwin award, do we need to be force fed the authors opinion of the’re* actions? Personally I dont think so. Hence my post. Unfortunately it seems to be how all media/blogs are these days, rather than sticking to the facts and letting an educated readership decide an opinion, we are force fed one.

        * have fun Will.

  2. “emitting radiation at hundreds of times the normal background dose”

    That doesn’t mean anything. It SOUNDS scary, but it means absolutely nothing. Depending on the circumstances that could be bad-ish or not a problem at all.

    1. Yah. I saw them focus in on the can there and thought “too bad this didn’t work, they could have made one hell of a WD-40 commercial and received gigs as spokespeople for years!”.

  3. What’s that WD40 supposed to be exactly? To my knowledge content of those cans varies substantially by country – heck, even by production batch.
    Overpriced leftovers of petrol industry… Does not withstand serious quality exigences.

  4. A bit too much assumptions here for my liking. Author admits not speaking russian yet goes assuming every aspect of the video. Some assumptions are very wrong (like they didn’t have any dosimeters). There are multiple videos and posts about their Pripyat adventures with quite some explanation, you could wait for KREOSAN English channel translation next time.

    That said, what they did is still very stupid and dangerous, but that’s what Kreosan is about.

    1. And, heck, all you have to do is shut everything down and make like a hole in the water, right? (except for the bleeping computer and daisy-wheel/impact driver printer)

  5. This is HAD… can we discuss what they SHOULD have done to get an old Ferris wheel turning?

    Obviously the tyre to shaft wasn’t very effective; assuming their evoke motors could be combined to drive the chain (remove the freewheel?) they’d have been better mounting a cog from the gear cassette to the shaft, and popping the chain round that (drill and tap the shaft then bolt the cog to it). They’d also need some way to brace the bike – shouldn’t be difficult with a few 2x4s.

    What were the counterweights for? Was removing them going to help?

    How much of the mechanism would they need to tear down and clean to unseize it? Would the main bearings be unusable?

  6. I am seriously perturbed by this meaningless and condescending article! I will no longer visit this site until the Pripyat wheel is powered by graphene super capacitors, a 3d printed motor, and has a proper LED POV display driven by a 7400 series logic board programmed via LORA using a converted Gameboy as an input interface.

  7. I would feel that a more immediate concern than the radiation would be the whole damn thing collapsing if you did manage to get it to move. This is a Ferris wheel that has been in the elements unmaintained for 33 years now. I also have to wonder what if any laws they broke. Aside from it being a restricted area due to the radiation, (Yes i know it can be toured) i would assume the area is also a historic site. Messing with historic artifacts in other parts of the world could get you serious fines or jail time. Of all the things that people think of when they think of Chernobly and Pripyat, aside from the disaster, this Ferris wheel is a pretty iconic artifact.

    1. Yes, it is a pretty iconic artifact.

      I wonder if any consideration has been given to conserving it, or anything else in the city. It seems like it would be a shame if it all crumbled away leaving nothing for brave tourists to go see.

      Then again, maybe the Ukranian government would prefer people not be touring the exclusion zone. Maybe it’s not worh the risk. Maybe nobody will prosecute because they would actually prefer the whole thing fall down and nothing interesting enough to draw people remain.

      Just totally idle speculation, I don’t mean to imply knowing anything about this. Any locals here with opinions to share?

    2. In many jurisdictions, fairground equipment is covered within regulations mandating standards for industrial plant and equipment. Of course, you usually need to have a safe work type inspector physically present to act on any breaches or failures…

  8. The big question in my mind is in another 80 or 90 years the zone will be “safe” again, but “safe” isn’t going to be a simple binary value in that context for another few hundred or thousand years. How is the remaining hazard going to be managed once it’s not just “nobody can be here for longer than a few hours”?

    1. The other question is who would even want to return and why? At this point anyone that was old enough to have fond memories of the place and wants to return to their old home, probably already has or is nearing kicking the bucket. Even if people were to return, after 33years of neglect the entire city and infrastructure probably has to be raised and rebuilt. Even if all that were done, who in their right mind would want to live miles from a ticking time bomb, and what will probably remain a ticking time bomb long after man is extinct on this planet? Just leave it as it is, to be consumed slowly by the wild, as a history lesson to the future how dangerous nuke power can be if not done right, and to be a tourist attraction as long as the buildings remain stable enough to do so safely.

      1. People aren’t just returning, but also moving there for the first time – BBC did an article (last year?) about families who’ve fled from the conflict with Russia moving into the area.

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