I was recently in Ukraine and I decided to visit Chernobyl. I did not know anything about this giant antenna system, the “Russian Woodpecker” until I got here. And it’s incredible.

In 1976 the world heard for the first time the eerie woodpecker-like repetitive pulse coming from these transmitters in present day Ukraine. Conspiracy theories followed instantly, generating Western media headlines about mind and weather control. Amid growing fears of nuclear war some claimed that the low-frequency “Russian signal” could change human behavior and destroy brain cells. Such wild speculations were further fueled by the Soviet Union’s denial of the very existence of the radar — it was a children’s camp after all.

The Duga Radar in Chernobyl

The Duga radar (which translates as “The Arc”) was once one of the most powerful military facilities in the Soviet Union’s communist empire. It still stands a towering 150 meters (492 feet) high and stretches almost 700 meters in length. But, left to rot in the radioactive winds of Chernobyl, it’s now in a sad state of industrial decay.

When it was in operation, the Duga supposedly used short radio waves capable of traveling thousands of kilometers using a technique called “over-the-horizon” radiolocation to detect the exhaust flames of launching missiles.

The random frequency hops disrupted legitimate broadcasts, amateur radio operations, oceanic commercial aviation communications, and utility transmissions, resulting in thousands of complaints by many countries worldwide. The signal became such a nuisance that some receivers such as amateur radios and televisions actually began including ‘Woodpecker Blankers’ in their circuit designs in an effort to filter out the interference.

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