5 Bizarre Equipment Graveyards In The Weirdest Places Imaginable
For reasons, we can't quite explain, human beings have an ongoing fascination with abandoned places and things.
Is it pure curiosity? Does exploring decaying buildings involves just the right amount of "danger" without landing you in jail? Or maybe it's just eerily cool to know that somewhere in the world sit massive, rusting piles of unused equipment, such as ...
There's a Tiny Island In the Pacific Ocean Loaded With Russian Tanks
Despite the recent resurgence of nazis, World War II ended 75 years ago in 1945. But while hostilities have officially ceased, that doesn't mean all the issues have been resolved. In fact, Japan and Russia are still technically at war -- at least on paper -- since both countries have spent the better part of a century refusing to sign an official peace treaty. (Even Biggie and Tupac's moms hugged it out; get over yourselves.) The primary point of conflict is control of the Kuril Islands, an archipelago that stretches between Japan's Hokkaido island and Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. Basically, Russia seized the strategically-located islands toward the end of the war, hauled in massive amounts of military equipment, and ... just never left. Neither did their equipment.
Most of the Kurils are sparsely-populated or totally uninhabited, making it extra odd to see a massive Soviet tank rusting in the middle of an otherwise pristine landscape. One island in particular, Shikotan, is covered with IS-2 and IS-3 Heavy Tanks, as well as T-54s and T-55s, which were literally dumped and left like they weren't valuable enough to feed an entire Russian village or eight.
Great: as if seabirds weren't enough of a pain in the ass already, now we've given them a tank battalion.
Today, Russia has an estimated 3,500 troops stationed on the islands, and since they've installed anti-ship and missile defense systems, they definitely don't need the tanks anymore. Whether they're full of fuel or leftover shells is anyone's guess, really, so if you're planning a post-pandemic visit to the islands, maybe watch where where you toss your Frisbee.
A Bay in Scotland Has Become an Oil Rig Retirement Community
When someone says "Scotland," what's the first thing that comes to mind? Probably Braveheart, bagpipes, haggis, national treasure Ewan McGregor, but definitely not oil rigs. But, as it happens, if you're an out-of-work or aging oil rig, Scotland is the retirement home of your dreams and the place where all the lucky, cool rigs go to cool their drills. With crude oil prices falling like they're Arctic ice levels, more and more rigs are being decommissioned. But what to do with a massive-but-no-longer-needed piece of equipment designed to function in the middle of an ocean? Leave it there? Well, sometimes that's actually best. But most often, they're towed to a specific bay in northern Scotland to hang out with their friends. Behold Cromarty Firth:
You might consider this less "graveyard" and more "parking lot." Oil prices could bounce back, really. But, at least one of the rigs has (reportedly) been parked for the last 15 years, so we're not exactly holding our breath. However, life isn't entirely dull for the mothballed rigs. They're a prime target for environmental activists and urban explorers, two of which spent an entire weekend investigating them. One artist Photoshopped iconic Star Wars scenes onto shots of a retired Cromarty Firth rig in the only special editions that we'll acknowledge going forward:
The Coasts of India and Bangladesh Are Lined With Decommissioned Ships, Which Are Slowly Pulled Ashore and Torn Apart...by Hand
While unused oil rigs get put out to pasture in northern Scotland, the fate of elderly boats and ships is quite different. If they're really, really lucky, they might get intentionally sunk to become an artificial reef and spend the rest of their lives being pooped on by fish and fondled by the occasional scuba diver. But mostly, once ships get so old that it costs more to insure them than run them, they end up somewhere on the coast of India or Bangladesh where their farewell is far less glamorous. Yes, they're technically retiring on a beach...but it's the sort where shipbreakers pull old vessels ashore and tear them apart by hand:
In their 2014 special, "The Ship Breakers," National Geographic documented the filthy, perilous process in detail.
Ships aren't built to ever come apart -- aside from floating, that's kinda the whole point, actually. So ripping up the hunks of steel with hammers, metal cutters, and bare hands isn't the sort of job you take on if you have any better options. Before the dirty work starts, the ships are entirely gutted, right down to the metal frame. Anything with value is sold or recycled -- batteries, copper wiring, nuts, bolts, etc. -- and the remaining fuel is siphoned out.
Once there's nothing left but the shell, desperately poor workers swarm the ships, usually without protective gear -- sometimes including shoes. It's not uncommon for one or more to be crushed, maimed, burned, or blown up like action movie cannon fodder as they dismantle the vessel's remains. Over 800 ships a year are sent to these shipbreaking yards, where they're transformed into a whopping 10 million tons of recycled steel. It's actually an extremely "green" operation ... if you can get past all the deaths and dismemberments.
Hundreds of Thousands of Volkswagens and Audis Are Parked In 37 Facilities Across the US
The Volkswagen Emissions Scandal has been one of those seemingly-endless ordeals where new and unexpected levels of greed, corruption, and general shitty behavior keep coming to light year after year. Anyway, in 2015 Volkswagen began buying back vehicles that failed emissions testing -- some 350,000 death farting cars in the United States alone. But while taking the rolling clouds of pollution off the road was absolutely the right thing to do, the buyback created an entirely different problem: where the hell do you park 350,000 unusable cars?
The answer is, "Wherever the hell you can." As of March 2018, Volkswagen had their pollution bombs parked at 37 different sites around the US. While they're not super forthcoming about their lots of shame, Reuters found cars stashed at "a shuttered suburban Detroit football stadium, a former Minnesota paper mill and a sun-bleached desert graveyard near Victorville, California." Between 2017 and 2019, twenty acres of Gary/Chicago International Airport was converted to a parking lot for recalled VWs, while others were stashed at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado.
That's a lot of cars, but you really have to check out some satellite images on Google Maps to truly get a sense of scope. On what appears to be a disused runway at the Victorville, California airport, sandwiched between Nikki's Family Home of Hope and the headquarters for Dr. Pepper Snapple, sit rows upon rows upon rows of parked Volkswagens. Google Maps even went ahead and helpfully labeled the area for us: "VW Diesel Parking."
So ... why are they still sitting there like lazy Transformers? Apparently, the 2015 models were pretty easy, if expensive, to refit. On the other hand, the offending models from 2009-2014 used different, but still crappy, technology, and retrofitting those will pose "a host of engineering challenges." In other words, by the time they figure out how to fix these cars in a way that will meet emissions guidelines, they'll no longer be worth fixing. And that's why cheating on tests is never a good idea.
The Arizona Desert is Where Airplanes Go to Die
If there's a chance a piece of equipment will be used again in the future, low-humidity storage is pretty much the way to go; heat keeps corrosion to a minimum, so it's really not surprising that there are more Volkswagens in Victorville than there are people. But cars aren't the only vehicles languishing in the southwest United States, because much like Canadian retirees, the Arizona desert is where airplanes go to die.
The area around Tucson is home to several aircraft boneyards, including Pinal Airpark and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, currently housing thousands of mothballed airplanes. Pinal's retirees are mostly former commercial planes, with parts of the defunct TWA and Northwest Airlines fleets left to bake in the desert sun. As you might have sussed out, Davis-Monthan specializes in ex-military aircraft and equipment, housing everything from Hercules freighters to and endless sea of F-14 Tomcat fighters:
Now, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that nobody is traveling, the Arizona boneyards are suddenly getting all sorts of exciting new visitors. Delta has over 80 of their planes parked in an Arizona field; meanwhile, Southwest has 50 airliners stashed in Victorville next to the Volkswagens and another bunch of Deltas. Which sounds like the most depressing sequel to Cars and Planes imaginable.
Top image Nerijus Norvilas/Shutterstock