Friday 24 February 2012

Islands still harbour cold war secrets

Kris Madden - Escape

I FEEL as if I am in a scene from a James Bond movie. Some of us are wearing balaclavas as we race away from the Russian mother ship in our indestructible black rubber inflatables, heading for the shores of an abandoned Soviet nuclear submarine base.

The haunting remains of the crumbling buildings come into view as we land at Broutana Bay on Simushir Island, a now-uninhabited speck of land in the cold waters of the northwestern Pacific Ocean and part of the Kuril Islands chain which stretches between northern Japan and Russia.

This is certainly no holiday resort. From the 1960s through to as recently as the mid-'90s, this remote string of islands, and an area to the north known as the Kamchatka Peninsula or the "Russian Far East", were once used as secret hiding places for warships and submarines and used as "listening posts" to spy on the United States, which I discover is surprisingly within striking distance, just across the Bering Sea.


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