The Top 7 World’s Most Interesting Vehicle Graveyards

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Posted on 8th June 2016


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Not all vehicles are loved as much as you love your cars. For some of them, all that awaits them after a life of faithful service is a scrapyard or a graveyard where they are left to face the elements and die a slow death by rust and dismantlement, forgotten by their owners. Alas, cars are not the only victims of this treatment, and planes, trains and even submarines can be found in mass graveyards all around the world.

Here are a few sites with interesting background stories.

Nezametnaya Cove, Russia

Surely the most incredible graveyard must be Nezametnaya Cove in northern Russia. Production of nuclear weapons was at an all-time high in Russia during the Cold War, and by the 1970s, Soviet manufacturers were so busy making new submarines that they had no time to dispose of the obsolete ones properly, so they just left them in the cove.

Did someone say glowing fish in the dark and contamination? Definitely, as some of those submarines were nuclear powered… Eventually, among increasing environmental concerns, Russia took action and dismantled them in the 1990s. Or at least that’s what they say. Access to the area is strictly forbidden so it is impossible to disprove but a picture taken by Google Earth shows at least seven still afloat.

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, USA

Nicknamed the Arizona Boneyard, this air base is the size of over 1,400 football pitches and home to more than 4,200 aircraft. Although some of the planes are still in working condition, some are kept for spare parts and others kept for posterity, among which some B-52 bombers.

All things considered, these planes are all remarkably well preserved, due to Arizona’s dry climate, so much so that the Air Force have found a way for them to earn their keep, by reselling spare parts. It is even a well-known tourist destination and you can take a guided tour around the facility!

Oranjemund, Namibia

Located in an area rich in diamonds, Oranjemund is a town which was built by a mining company to house its workers. As you would imagine, movement in, out and around the area is highly restricted with armed guards patrolling constantly to prevent theft, and they mean business: being caught with diamonds on your person will send you to prison for 15 years.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way and it hasn’t stopped individuals from trying: hiding diamonds up their nose, firing them over the fences with crossbows, or even training pigeons fitted with tiny jackets filled with diamonds!

Oranjemund has the second-largest earth-moving fleet in the world, only beaten by the US Army, and for vehicles, it is a one-way ticket: they are never allowed to leave for fear of diamonds being smuggled out on disused trucks. There is therefore a large collection of vehicles decaying in the industrial compound, some of them dating from the 1920s.

Chernobyl, Ukraine

On 26 April 1986, an unexpected power surge started a chain reaction which would lead to the worst nuclear accident in history. It wasn’t entirely apparent that the reactor was damaged, so emergency teams were sent in without the proper protection equipment, resulting in many deaths by radiation poisoning.

However, it wasn’t only people who were affected, vehicles were too, and those used during the clean-up were so contaminated that they had to be left behind to prevent spreading nuclear poisoning elsewhere. The first fire truck to get to the area was so toxic that it actually had to be buried deep underground.

 

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

In 1888, at the apogee of the mining industry in Bolivia, British engineers came to the country to build a railway from the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt plain located in the Andes, down to the Pacific coast to transport mineral deposits.

It wasn’t without challenges as the local indigenous peoples, the Aymara, constantly sabotaged the line that they saw as a threat to their way of life. Despite their best efforts, the work was finally completed in 1892.

Half a century later, the mineral deposits had been fully exploited and the area was abandoned. Left behind, the rusty steam trains make for a ghostly sight. Although there are plans to turn the graveyard into a museum, those could be hindered by the fact that metal thieves are taking the trains apart.

Nouadhibou, Mauritania

As far as ports go, you could hardly find a better location than Nouadhibou. Located on a wide bay, it offers protection from the Atlantic Ocean and is close to some of the best fishing grounds in the world. Inland, iron ore is extracted and transported through the port, making it a bustling trade centre.

It is also one of the poorest areas in the world, due to rampant authorities’ corruption.

In the 1980s, locals started abandoning unwanted ships in the shallow waters of the bay and it wasn’t long before Nouadhibou gained a reputation as a ship graveyard. Soon, more vessels were brought there to rust, aided by the local government who would happily look away for the right sum.

Small vessels, large fishing trawlers, cruisers now lay in the shallow waters with no end in sight. There is a silver lining though, as the ships have been providing ideal breeding grounds for all sorts of fish, which has benefited the community.

Châtillon Forest, Belgium

Until 2010, the forest near Châtillon was the site of four car graveyards, totalling some 500 vehicles covered in rust and moss. Most of the cars were from the 1950s and 1960s and a dream come true for classic car collectors. Sadly, they were also prey to people dismantling them in order to procure themselves with hard-to-find parts to restore their own cars.

There are several stories explaining how this car graveyard came to be. One of the most interesting one is that those vehicles would have been abandoned by American soldiers after the Second World War who couldn’t afford to ship them back home.

The graveyard was cleared in 2010 on environmental grounds.


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