Eerie Drone Footage Provides Rarely Seen Glimpse of the Ruins of Chernobyl

One of the unmanned aerial vehicles lets us get up close to the crumbling buildings in the disaster-ravaged Ukrainian city of Pripyat.
Dec 10, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

We can probably all agree that deploying a drone around a restaurant (and slicing off part of a woman’s nose in the process) is probably not the best use of the device. But using one to give us a bird’s-eye view of a part of the globe that’s been rendered uninhabitable owing to a catastrophic nuclear reactor explosion? Yes, please.

Earlier this year, British filmmaker Danny Cooke flew a drone around the ghost town of Pripyat, the northern Ukrainian city built by the Soviets to house people working at the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

In 1986, the reactor failed, resulting in one of the most apocalyptic disasters of modern times. Both people and wildlife were killed and injured by the disaster. But as the years pass, signs of life, including wild boar and brown bears, are returning to the 1,000-square-mile area around the town. But because of the radioactivity of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, taking a stroll through Pripyat to view its crumbling buildings and decaying Ferris wheel is still a dangerous endeavor for humans.

Still, Cooke bravely spent a week in the area earlier this year while working on an episode of 60 Minutes about the ongoing environmental and societal fallout from the disaster. Armed with a Geiger counter, a handheld camera, and a drone, Cooke explored around Pripyat with a guide named Yevgen, also known locally as “Stalker.” The region is “one of the most interesting and dangerous places I’ve been,” Cooke wrote on his Vimeo page.

That sounds pretty eerie—but we still want to see what Pripyat looks like, right? Check out the video above, and you’ll understand why Cooke wrote about his time in the city, “There was something serene, yet highly disturbing about this place. Time has stood still and there are memories of past happenings floating around us.”