Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010

The Desolation of Smaug

Location: The environs of Chernobyl, Ukraine

The malevolent dragon Smaug — The Hobbit's most monstrous villain — laid waste to the region around his lair in the Lonely Mountain. While the beast slumbers amid its hoard of treasure, nothing grows in the lands nearby.

When a nuclear reactor blew up at the Soviet installation of Chernobyl (in present-day Ukraine), stretches of pine forest nearby turned red and withered. Animals in the vicinity perished, while radioactive fallout was registered across all of Europe. The U.S.S.R. set up what's called a "zone of alienation" 19 miles (30 km) around the site that still exists to this day, though many species of creatures have returned and have reportedly flourished due to reduced contact with humans.