5 WTF Abandoned Wastelands You Won't Believe Exist
Have you ever known somebody -- an old roommate or neighbor, perhaps -- who seems to leave a monumental mess wherever he goes? There are piles of Taco Bell wrappers in his back seat. His yard is where lawn chairs go to die. God, forget about the living room -- he's got eight TVs stacked one atop another. You know who we're talking about, right?
Well, these places are his Mecca.
The Great American Tire Pile
In the 1950s, Ed Filbin had a dream.
Oh, not one of those civil rights deals, or even the one where you have to flee a Kool-Aid tsunami with the mom from Arrested Development. No, this dream was strange: He imagined that, one day, discarded rubber tires would be worth a fortune. Never mind that tire piles are ugly, collect water, and become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, or that they're essentially impossible to put out if they ever catch fire. Mere trifles like logic and reason were not about to stand in the way of Filbin's Great American Tire Pile. And so it was that Ed Filbin collected 42 million tires. And lo, he did put them in a giant pile. And he looked upon his work, and he said that it was good.
Originally, it formed a single giant tire. Then it kept growing.
Obviously Filbin's dreams of black rubber gold never came to fruition -- what, you mean people weren't itching to buy ancient, weather-cracked tires full of mosquitoes? -- so in the 1980s, he sold the pile off to a series of companies. Why so many people were investing in old tires, we don't know (building a Captain-Planet-villain-style lair, perhaps?), but it didn't work out for the buyers, either. Several companies went bust trying to deal with the pile. Eventually the tires were whittled down to a meager 10 million rubbers, but then, in 1999, disaster struck. Literally.
The Catholics were right: God hates latex.
The authorities tried, but simply didn't have the resources to subdue the fire, so they had but one option: Wait for it to burn itself out. They likely expected it to take days.
The inferno raged for a solid month.
The fire truck then faced a delay because it had a flat and no spare was available.
Man, it's true what they say: The Simpsons really has done everything.
Chernobyl's Radioactive Parking Lot
Just like hurricanes, nuclear disasters have a scale of impending fuckedosity. The International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) covers a range from 1 to 7, with 1 being "microwave left open while running," while 7 is "does this tentacle make my ass look fat?" The 1986 Chernobyl disaster hit the charts at #7 with a bullet (to the head, to spare you the inevitable horrors of the rampaging mutant hordes).
And the radioactive sentient dolls. Don't forget the radioactive sentient dolls.
Millions of locals were evacuated, and an army of emergency response units were drafted to help bring the fire under control. Obviously the men couldn't run in bare chested and punch nuclear fallout in the neck, no matter how appropriately Russian that plan sounds. A slew of heavy equipment was conscripted to deal with the disaster: Fire trucks tackled the flames from the ground, while helicopters hovered over the reactor, dumping material to try to smother the burning pit. Obviously, fallout contaminated all of this equipment. So what else could they do but just abandon it all in a big-ass field?
They could have nuked it, but some called that solution flawed.
Million-dollar helicopters, thousands of heavy trucks, and other astonishingly expensive fire-fighting equipment was all abandoned as their operators presumably tried to outrace the radiation on foot. The biggest depot, pictured above, is located in Rassokha, Ukraine. That's right: "is." You can still see the radioactive parking garage on Google Maps today. Oh, don't worry, the highly contaminated vehicles aren't just sitting around, waiting for unsuspecting children to come play pilot. The most heavily irradiated equipment -- the "grow an arm where your eye should be stuff" -- that was all buried. These ones sitting out? They're just, like, "maybe get a little ball cancer in 30 years" irradiated. Frolic away, children!
No worse than smoking, which used to be mandatory in Ukraine.
Sweden's Mammoth Wood Pile
In 2005, Cyclone Gudrun (a storm as powerful as a hurricane) nuzzled its way into Europe and snuggled up with Sweden and Denmark. Hey, if you're going to anthropomorphize a disaster, you might as well make it adorable, right? Unfortunately, Gudrun didn't know its own strength and ended up cuddling the roofs off of buildings, Eskimo kissing a few vehicles into oblivion, and generally spooning the holy shit out of half a continent. All told, the storm uprooted 2.65 billion cubic feet of lumber, worth more than $2.9 billion. But unlike a fire, these trees weren't gone, just dead, so Sweden gathered up as much as they could and did what is apparently standard practice: They made a giant friggin' pile.
Most of the felled timber was gathered at a military airstrip in the south, stacked more than 40 feet high, 200 feet wide, and almost a mile and half in length. It is the single biggest hoard of wood in the world (ladies). And because Swedes understand fun like no other culture on earth, the giant stack of dead trees attracted thousands of visitors daily while under construction.
Only hundreds of whom came to watch the hot Swedish construction workers.
The original plan was to start processing the logs in 2008 and be completely rid of them all soon after. But as is the way of the pile, the lumber discovered that it kind of liked where it was and didn't much feel like moving. As of 2013, Google's all-knowing eye in the sky tells us that around half of the pile is still standing.
Sounds like somebody's got their next vacation planned!
The Glass Beaches of Fort Bragg
For the better half of the 20th century, citizens of Fort Bragg, California, enjoyed glorious views of the majestic Pacific. Then it occurred to them: You know what majesty is really, really good for? Getting rid of garbage!
You can't spell "back for the garbage" without "Fort Bragg Beach" ... and "a," "k," and "e."
So they started shoving all of their refuse off of the cliffs, right into the water. When the tide didn't pull it away into the mysterious and exotic land of "not my fucking problem anymore," residents just set the garbage on fire and let the ocean take the ashes. Now, this is the part of the anime where Mother Nature manifests as some sort of giant spectral elk vengeance spirit to teach us all a lesson about the tenuous balance of life. But not this time: This time she took all the broken glass, churned it up beneath the waves, and spat back jewels.
In Neptune's country, jewels are worthless. And, for some reason, they eat breakfast at night.
Yes, years of neglect and disrespect, and now the residents of Fort Bragg are getting exactly what they deserve: a booming tourist attraction!
Where tons of garbage once covered the shore, the waves have now smoothed and polished the formerly jagged shards into harmless, rounded, multi-colored fun. You can totally walk around barefoot, or just stick your hand in, giggling at how utterly we have conquered and humiliated the natural world.
Or go shit in the ocean and see what comes back.
Where Cargo Ships Go to Die
Look at that noble fleet! Who knows what sacred duties they are tasked with: protecting a country? Delivering vital goods to the world? Just kind of sitting there, silently rusting into oblivion?
Yep, it's the latter.
Leaking toxic waste is a sacred duty, kind of.
Those aren't just any old boats, either. They're cargo ships, each weighing hundreds of thousands of tons, and this section of coast just happens to be the rubbish bin where we throw away our mega vessels. It all started back in 1965, when a storm stranded a freighter on a beach in Chittagong in Bangladesh. Instead of trying to get the ship back into the water or raising a fuss until somebody hauled the eyesore away, the locals began hacking away at it, looting it for scrap metal. The rest of the world stood up and took notice: Those suckers want our gargantuan uber-garbage? OK then:
To be fair, it needs to be done. All ships get scrapped eventually. It's just that if you want to take care of it in places like Europe or America, you've got to follow these pansy "environmental regulations," put the ships in dry dock, and then pay a small fortune for their dismantling. Whereas in Bangladesh, you can essentially just kill a bottle of Shipcrasher's rum, full-steam your boat into the shoreline, and drunkenly stumble away, all for the cost of a few well-placed bribes. Hell, they'll even pay you for the privilege of dismantling it.
And for the barnacles. Men earning $3 a day find them delicious.
See that white speck, bottom center? That's a person. That's the staggering scale of these behemoths, and hundreds of them wash up every single year on this beach, where scavengers swarm them like ants taking down an elephant:
These guys chill on the beach every day with boats. We kind of envy them.
But don't go thinking it's an ideal solution or anything: Dozens of workers die every year in the shipyards. Some are crushed to death, some inhale toxic fumes, and sometimes blowtorches will set fuel alight, causing a whole ship to explode. Hey, Treat Williams seemed to make it out unscathed in Deep Rising; we're sure the Bangladeshis have plenty of emergency jet skis on hand.
Yosomono writes for Gaijinass.com, who also have a Facebook page that you should LIKE. Ryan Menezes is a writer and layout editor here at Cracked. Follow him on Twitter. Richie Ryan occasionally works the wood. See his things. You can also follow him on Twitter if that's your thing.
Related Reading: Looking for some abandoned wastelands that'd be suitable lairs for supervillainy? Look no further. The Shime Coal Mine tower is the closest you'll get to Isengard. But if that's a little too 'above ground' for you, one of these abandoned nuclear missile silos would make a perfect locale fatale. But maybe your budget doesn't allow for something so grand. These abandoned wastelands are all within walking distance of perfectly normal cities.