Monday, 7 June 2010

Inside a former secret, Soviet, submarine base

One of the more unusual places to visit is a former Soviet submarine base but in October 2006 I got the chance to do that whilst doing a cruise around the Black Sea. The base was in Balaklava, better known as the supply base for the British effort during the Crimean War (there are plenty of war memorials around but more about them on another day) and for having the famous headgear named after it. Balaklava is on the south of the Crimean peninsula which is part of the Ukraine. I also did a tour of the Crimea in October 2005 but at that time the submarine base had not opened for visitors. On my return visit the following year, I was in for more luck.

Balaklava nuclear submarine base Oct 06 no 4
(The personnel entrance)

The base is unlikely to be like anything you have ever seen before. It was built to be safe against a direct nuclear hit. The only visible parts are the nuclear proof doors at the bottom of the cliffs in the bay. The base is inside the cliff. If you like James Bond and Indiana Jones film sets, you will love this place.

Balaklava nuclear submarine base Oct 06 no 130
(The submarine entrace from the Bay of Balaklava)

The following has been taken from my diary written on my second visit to the Crimea:

Thursday 26th October 2006

I always knew this was going to be one of the highlights of the whole holiday - a visit to the former secret Soviet submarine base in the cliffs overlooking Balaklava. I visited the town last year [ie 2005] but the base was not then open to visitors though it has not been in military service since the 1990s. There was, however, no way I was going to miss the opportunity to see it this time!
The entrance to the base is on the opposite side of the bay to the town and from there all that can be seen is the gateway in the face of the cliff through which the subs sailed plus a personnel entrance. Each has nuclear bomb proof doors.

Balaklava nuclear submarine base Oct 06 no 58
(The access tunnel into the base - note the curving corridor)

The base itself was dug out of the hillside in the late fifties and early sixties to house the subs of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. The base itself is under 125 metres of solid marble. To get into it we had to enter via the personnel entrance which took us along a long, curving tunnel (curving to help deflect the blast of a nuclear explosion should the Americans have decided to nuke the place). This was like entering a Hollywood world of Indiana Jones and James Bond combined.

Balaklava nuclear submarine base Oct 06 no 47
(Weapons of mass destruction)

We followed railway tracks to the nuclear bomb assembly area deep inside the base, and then followed more tunnels to the actual submarine bays, huge caverns with the waters of the Black Sea flowing through them, bringing no more submarines now, but only the local jellyfish that seem to exist in vast numbers. All we were missing were 007 fighting the baddies and stopping them from taking over the world! If you get the chance to visit this area (which was closed to the western world and even most Soviet citizens until 1995) this submarine base is a must see.

Balaklava nuclear submarine base Oct 06 no 10
(One of the internal nuclear blast doors)

Balaklava nuclear submarine base Oct 06 no 99
(one of the submarine pens)

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