#ChernobylFrogs16 Day 2 Reactor 4 in the background
We are finally inside Chernobyl Exclusion Zone sampling frogs!!
The day started in Kiev early in the morning, meeting our colleague of the Chornobyl Research Centre, Sergey Gaschak, and the colleagues from the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre. We headed to Chernobyl straight away, ca. 2 hours drive, to found something totally unexpected, a traffic jam of 200 cars on the entrance checkpoint!! 9 of May is WWII Victory Day, a big holiday during the soviet time, and still a day some people spent visiting graveyards and important monuments dedicated to the heroes of that difficult times. It’s amazing to see how much people is attach to traditions and places, even when this implies entering in a radioactive exclusion zone with children…
After a quick lunch on the Chornobyl Centre facilities (and old house reconverted into a field station), and with our dosimeters with us, we went to the field on the eastern side of Prypiat river to help Sergey installing a couple of camera trap and song recorders for the TREE project. We still found lot a cars and people (and a few control checkpoints) on our movements within the Zone. Crossing Prypiat river bridge, we had our first glimpse of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, a long-distance view of the complex with the shiny (close-to-be-finished) new sarcophagus.
We also saw a moose (Alces alces) and plenty of bird species when moving through an area of sandy soil and pine-birch forest, rather dry, and that in many areas remembered me to Doñana National Park, back in Spain. Dosimeters never went over 2 microSv/h, so we just accumulated 1 microSv in total for this time.
We had a quick, early, dinner at the Chernobyl Hotel (yes, there is and hotel inside a radioactive exclusion zone, and quite a few radioactive tourists…).
And, then, it was finally time for the frogs!! We decided o go straight to the hot radioactive areas. Our first locality was almost at the shadow of the Chernobyl reactor 4, the “beast” that is the origin of all the troubles.. The rather exotic, long-distance view, view of the reactor from before was transformed to a more daunting, imposing felling when you just passed merely 100 meters from the reactor and the huge new sarcophagus…
As I said, we put the wading boots and headlamps on, with the reactor red lights in the background and entered a big bog-pond surrounded by reeds and plenty of Fire-bellied toads (Bombina bombina) booming and water frogs (Pelophylax kl esculenta), and a few treefrogs (Hyla arborea), ur study species, calling in the distance.. It was hard and exhausting.. Moving across the Reds, water up to the chest, with the dosimeter beeping at 20 microSv/h wasn’t the easiest thing I have done to collect amphibians, I have to say.. But after ca. two hours crossing the zone back to back we managed to capture 19 treefrog males. It was already 1:30 in the morning when we arrived back to our Chernobyl field station, with a total accumulated radiation of 37microSv, not before passing by two other breeding localities for the treefrogs, just to check they were active on these places, and the were.
So, the plan for today (writing this on the 10th May, 7:30AM) is to process last night frogs and collect of the samples we need to estimate the effects of the chronic exposure to radiation in this species (and looking at our dosimeters reads, these frogs were quite exposed to radiation, no doubt). And of the afternoon, back to the field for more localities and more frogs.. Let’s see if we manage to collect two more localities today. Fingers crossed and headlamps and dosimeters on!!