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BASE jumping fans settled in Chernobyl.

BASE jumping is an extreme sport that involves jumping from fixed objects with a parachute, which is initially packed. It derived from skydiving. But, compared with skydivers, those who are fond of BASE jumping use lower objects. Besides, a BASE jump is performed close to the object used as a jump platform. Because of a lower altitude, such jumps are characterized by slower airspeed compared to skydives. As a result, those who practice this kind of sport often fail to reach terminal velocity. Higher airspeed allows a jumper to control his body more effectively and provides him with more opportunities to successfully open the parachute. The extra time allows one to take correct decisions and to avoid serious injuries.

Photo: International Tower Jump Day

As you can see, this kind of sport is extremely dangerous. The flight is short enough by parachute jumping standards, which means that one has only a couple of seconds to open a parachute. Besides, there is a chance that one will crash into the building or construction from which he is jumping. So if one opens a parachute too early, he will get injured. And if it takes him too long to make the decision, he will also crash into the earth. However, some BASE jumpers get so used to endangering their health and lives that they need even more extreme conditions in order to enjoy jumps to the full. So they go to Chernobyl.

A view of the abandoned city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine

The exclusion zone is a dangerous source of radiation. There are several abandoned towns and villages within its territory. As a result of the accident, the local environment was polluted with such radioactive substances as strontium-90, cesium-137, americium-241 and plutonium-239.

There are also other radioactive isotopes found in the environment; these include iodine-131, cobalt-60 and cesium-134, but, due to the fact that their half-life periods are short enough, experts have already acknowledged them to be safe. Although the ruined reactor has been hidden under the sarcophagus, the level of radiation is still dangerous there. One can get a fatal dose staying in the exclusion zone for a too long period of time. However, it does not stop BASE jumpers and other adrenaline addicts.

This is quite the adventure. It seems BASE jumpers are getting bored with normal antennas and have decided to up the ante. I can hear it now, Theyve got two 800 foot antennas, each emitting millions of kilowatts of radioactivity. Yes, doing a 5-way BASE jump off the legendary DUGA within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is badass but not as badass as paddling across a river in a little rubber dinghy. ‘Nuff said.

A base jumper is standing on famous Duga

Duga was a Soviet over-the-horizon (OTH) radar system used as part of the Soviet anti-ballistic missile early-warning network. The system operated from July 1976 to December 1989. Two operational Duga radars were deployed, one near Chernobyl and Chernihiv in the Ukrainian SSR (present-day Ukraine), the other in eastern Siberia.

The Duga systems were extremely powerful, over 10 MW in some cases, and broadcast in the shortwave radio bands. They appeared without warning, sounding like a sharp, repetitive tapping noise at 10 Hz, which led to it being nicknamed by shortwave listeners the Russian Woodpecker. The random frequency hops disrupted legitimate broadcasts, amateur radio operations, oceanic commercial aviation communications, utility transmissions, and resulted in thousands of complaints by many countries worldwide. The signal became such a nuisance that some receivers such as amateur radios and televisions actually began including 'Woodpecker Blankers' in their circuit designs in an effort to filter out the interference.

The unclaimed signal was a source for much speculation, giving rise to theories such as Soviet mind control and weather control experiments. However, because of its distinctive transmission pattern, many experts and amateur radio hobbyists quickly realized it to be an over-the-horizon radar system. NATO military intelligence had already given it the reporting name STEEL WORK or STEEL YARD. While the amateur radio community was well aware of the system, this theory was not publicly confirmed until after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Soviets had been working on early warning radar for their anti-ballistic missile systems through the 1960s, but most of these had been line-of-sight systems that were useful for raid analysis and interception only. None of these systems had the capability to provide early warning of a launch, within seconds or minutes of a launch, which would give the defences time to study the attack and plan a response. At the time, the Soviet early-warning satellite network was not well developed, and there were questions about their ability to operate in a hostile environment including anti-satellite efforts. An over-the-horizon radar sited in the USSR would not have any of these problems, and work on such a system for this associated role started in the late 1960s.

The first experimental system, Duga, was built outside Mykolaiv in Ukraine, successfully detecting rocket launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 2,500 kilometers. This was followed by the prototype Duga, built on the same site, which was able to track launches from the far east and submarines in the Pacific Ocean as the missiles flew towards Novaya Zemlya. Both of these radar systems were aimed east and were fairly low power, but with the concept proven, work began on an operational system. The new Duga-1 systems used a transmitter and receiver separated by about 60 km.

An abandoned Soviet Cold War-era radar system known as ‘The Woodpecker’ used to detect incoming missiles stands inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone on September 30, 2015, near Chernobyl, Ukraine. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is a 2,600-square-kilometer restricted access zone established in the contaminated area around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. While workers employed at the Chernobyl site today and a small number of returnees live in the outer zone, no one is allowed to live in the inner zone, where hot spots of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come

At some point in 1976, a new and powerful radio signal was detected simultaneously worldwide, and quickly dubbed 'the Woodpecker' by amateur radio operators. Transmission power on some Woodpecker transmitters was estimated to be as high as 10 MW equivalent isotropically radiated power. Even prior to 1976, a similar 'woodpecker' interference is remembered by radio amateurs occurring in the high frequencies. As early as 1963, or before, radio amateurs were calling this "the Russian Woodpecker". Little is apparently known about the power levels or Russian designation but is probably a forerunner of the Duga radar systems. It was also speculated at that time, at least among radio amateurs, that this was an over-the-horizon radar.

Triangulation by both amateur radio hobbyists and NATO quickly revealed the signals came from a location in present day Ukraine, at the time called Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (part of USSR). Confusion due to small differences in the reports being made from various sources led to the site being alternately located near Kiev, Minsk, Chernobyl, Gomel or Chernihiv. All of these reports were describing the same deployment, with the transmitter only a few kilometers southwest of Chernobyl (south of Minsk, northwest of Kyiv) and the receiver about 50 km northeast of Chernobyl (just west of Chernihiv, south of Gomel). At one time there was speculation that several transmitters were in use.

The radar system was given the code 5Н32-West by the Soviets, and was set up in two closed towns, Liubech-1 held the two transmitters and Chernobyl-2 the receivers. Unknown to civilian observers at the time, NATO was aware of the new installation. A second installation was built near Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in Bolshya Kartel and Lian, but did not become active for some time.

The NATO Reporting Name for the Duga-1 is often quoted as STEEL YARD. Many online and several print references use this name. However some sources also use the term STEEL WORK (or STEEL WORKS). As any "official" sources using NATO Reporting Names are likely to be classified deconflicting this will be difficult. The earliest found open source mention of a NATO Reporting Name for this system, a reference publication in print while the system was still active, unambiguously uses the term STEEL WORK.

To combat this interference, amateur radio operators attempted to jam the signal by transmitting synchronized unmodulated continuous wave signals at the same pulse rate as the offending signal. They formed a club called The Russian Woodpecker Hunting Club. Core group members would frame the "Official Practice Target" in their radio shack.

The Ukrainian-developed computer game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has a plot focused on the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and the nuclear accident there. The game heavily features actual locations in the area, including the Duga-1 array. The array itself appears in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky in the fictional city of Limansk-13. While the 'Brain Scorcher' from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl was inspired by theories that Duga-1 was used for mind control, it does not take the form of the real array.

DUGA in the famous computer game Stalker

Markiyan Kamysh novel about Chernobyl illegal trips to the Duga A Stroll to the Zone was praised by reviewers as the most interesting literature debut of 2015 in Ukraine. The novel has been translated into French (in title La Zone), and was published by French publishing house Arthaud (Groupe Flammarion).

  • In Call of Duty: Black Ops, the map "Grid" is placed in Pripyat near the DUGA-1 array.
  • In the movie Divergent, the wall around Chicago is derived from photographs of the Duga-1 array.
  • The 'Russian woodpecker' appears in Justin Scott's novel The Shipkiller.

The Duga at Chernobyl was the focus of the 2015 documentary film, The Russian Woodpecker, by Chad Gracia. The film includes interviews with the commander of the Duga, Vladimir Musiets, as well as the Vice-Commander, the Head of the Data Center, and others involved in building and operating the radar. The documentary, which won numerous awards, also includes drone video footage of the array and handheld video footage of the surroundings as well as a climb to the top by the cinematographer, Artem Ryzhykov.

Back to base jumping. Let’s look through the history. Some base jumpers leap off bridges, while others off buildings. Some extreme adventurers don "birdmen" or "flying squirrel" suits then jump off high cliffs or manmade structures. During the first few seconds of free fall the suits fill with air, then the birdman soars at up to 140 miles per hour, sometimes flying close to rock walls and towers on their descent.

BASE jumping can trace its origins back to the 1970s when adrenaline seekers were looking for new sports to push their skills to the limit. In 1978, filmmaker Carl Boenish Jr. actually coined the term, when he, his wife Jean, Phil Smith, and Phil Mayfield made the first jump off of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park using ram-air parachutes.

They made an impressive free fall off that massive rock face, essentially creating the sport in the process.

In the early years of BASE jumping, participants in this wild and dangerous new activity mostly employed the same gear the skydivers used when jumping out of airplanes. But over time, the equipment was refined and redesigned to meet the specific needs of jumpers. The parachutes, jumpsuits, helmets, and other gear all evolved became more compact and lighter and turned into something that was better suited for use in a more active sport. Since BASE jumpers often have to carry their equipment with them to the point where they make their jump, these refinements were welcomed.

In the mid-1990's, French skydiver and BASE jumper Patrick de Gayardon developed what would become the first modern wingsuit. He had hoped to use his designs to add more surface area to his body, allowing him to glide more easily through the air while adding maneuverability to his jumps as well. In the years that followed refinements were made to the initial design by a number of other skydivers, and the wingsuit phenomenon went from concept to a full-fledged product.

In 2003, the wingsuit made the leap from skydiving over to BASE jumping, giving rise to a technique known as proximity flying.

The moment of jumping, from the famous video of crazy Ukrainian BASE jumper, in Chernobyl.

In this activity, the BASE jumper still leaps from a structure of some sort but glides back down to Earth while flying close to the ground, trees, buildings, cliffs, or other obstacles. A parachute is still required to make a safe landing, however.

Today, wingsuit flying is considered an integral part of BASE jumping, with most participants choosing to wear the bat-like suit while making their jumps. This has led to some incredible GoPro video footage of the "pilots" in action as they perform death-defying feats.

BASE jumping is an incredibly dangerous sport that should only be attempted by those who have been properly trained. It is estimated that an accident is 43 times more likely to occur while taking part in this activity as opposed to simply skydiving from an aircraft.[1]

[1] During the preparation of the article were used the materials of the site https://www.tripsavvy.com/what-is-base-jumping-34497