Friday, 14 July 2017

Ships Graveyard in the Desert of Moynaq, Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan, an eerie ship graveyard filled with hauntingly beautiful shipwrecks beckons, is literally a ghost town in the middle of the desert. Moynaq ship Graveyard — Mo‘ynoq also spelled as Muynak and Moynaq, is a city in northern Karakalpakstan in western Uzbekistan. It was formerly a sea port, now home to only a few thousand residents at most. Mo‘ynoq's population has been abating precipitously since the 1980s due to the recession of the Aral Sea. Because in the last 30 years Moynaq was one of two biggest Soviet fishing harbors at the Aral Sea. As the scarce few travelers who have traversed this most barren and isolated of landscapes will tell you, it’s perhaps the last place on earth you’d expect to find a flotilla of abandoned ships. Except this isn’t a mirage you’ve reached the Graveyard Ships of Mo’ynaq, a surreal collection of rusting fishing vessels in Uzbekistan, stranded nearly 100 miles from the nearest shoreline.

The Aral Sea has been gradually declining since the 1960s, as the waters of the two rivers feeding it, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, were aimed at irrigating agricultural areas. Actually formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 km2 or 26,300 sq mi. Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since in 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects.  In 2007, it had dropped to 10% of its original size, splitting into four lakes! the North Aral Sea, the eastern and western basins of the once far larger South Aral Sea, and one smaller lake between the North and South Aral Seas. Though, in 2009, the southeastern lake had disappeared and the southwestern lake had retreated to a thin strip at the extreme west of the former southern sea.

Moreover, the maximum depth of the North Aral Sea is 42 meter or 138 ft in 2008.The lessening of the Aral Sea has been called "one of the planet's worst environmental disasters". The region's once-prosperous fishing industry has been basically destroyed, bringing unemployment and economic adversity. The Aral Sea region was also heavily polluted, with following serious public health problems. The retreat of the sea has reportedly also caused local climate change, with summers becoming hotter and drier, and winters colder and longer.In an ongoing effort in Kazakhstan to save and replenish the North Aral Sea, a dam project was completed in 2005; in 2008, the water level in this lake had risen by 12 m or 39 ft compared to 2003. Salinity has dropped, and fish are again found in sufficient numbers for some fishing to be viable.

The Aral Sea watershed covers Uzbekistan and parts of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Nowadays Mo‘ynoq's is a major tourist attractions are the armada of rusting hulks that once made up the proud fishing fleet during the Soviet era. Even a one-room museum devoted to Mo‘ynoq's heritage as a center of the fishing industry. Though, poisonous dust storms kicked up by strong winds across the dried and polluted seabed give rise to a multitude of chronic and acute illnesses between the few residents who have selected to remain, most of them ethnic Karakalpaks, and weather unmoderated by the sea now buffets the town with hotter-than-normal summers and colder-than-normal winters. Let's take a closer look and see how these ships came to be stranded in the middle of the desert.