Lake Chagan is the result of a thermonuclear explosion that happened in 1965 at a nuclear test site in Semey, also known as “The Polygon” in Kazakhstan.
It was part of a program to examine the possibility of creating and developing a peaceful purpose of nuclear technology for things like making canals and reservoirs, drilling for oil, or moving large masses of earth.
A device was placed in a deep hole 178 meters deep in the Chagan river bed, and when detonated, it created a crater 400 meters wide and 100 meters deep, then a channel was created to allow it to fill up with water.
The program was called “Nuclear Explosions For The National Economy.” It was an idea borrowed from the USA who were performing their own tests for similar purposes and called their program “Operation Plowshare.”
Where the USA discontinued testing after twenty-seven tests in 1977, after they determined the testing was not going to be productive, the Soviets continued testing up until 1989. They conducted a total of one hundred and fifty-six tests before giving up.
The water at Lake Chagan is contaminated and incredibly radioactive at nearly one hundred times more than permitted levels. As a result, there are no fish, no wildlife, no birds, and a disgusting odor often emanates from the water.
Swimming is not permitted for obvious reasons, and there is evidence that the water is now draining into the Irtysh River. At the south of the lake, there is a rim, which holds the water back from another reservoir.
When the lake was created, the Soviet Government was very happy with the results and proud of Lake Chagan. The person responsible for the whole of the Soviet nuclear weapons program – the Minister of the Medium Machine Building Ministry was filmed taking a swim in the lake.
Have a look at this crazy historical footage here.
Do check out this detailed documentary on “The Polygon.”
Lake Chagan is becoming a place for tourists to visit and is known as the Atomic Lake, but tourists must wear protective clothing and masks in order to go and have a look at the view of the crater and the surrounding landscape.
Further up a rough dirt track, there is a hill, which conceals the concrete bunker control center smattered with pockmarks created by rocks from the blast.
Kazakhstan is the ninth biggest country but used to be part of the Russian empire and declared independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved.
It has an abundance of oil reserves and other valuable minerals and is the world’s largest landlocked country globally and is becoming a place of interest for tourists with its authentic culture, nature reserves, and activities, including bird-watching and outdoor activities including skiing and trekking.
If you’re looking for a different travel experience and would like to see Lake Chagan, then book your next adventure to Kazakhstan and enjoy a chance to discover something offbeat and unusual.
Ethan started traveling with his family at the age of 10 and has since visited dozens of countries on six continents. He loves discovering new destinations, predicting trends, and turning amazing travel experiences into inspiring stories.