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4 July 2014 / leggypeggy

Ghost ships in the desert—the heartbreak of the Aral Sea

Stranded ship, Moynak

Talbot checks out the deck of a stranded ship

The Aral Sea appears frequently as an answer to clues in crossword puzzles. Sadly it barely makes a showing in real life.

Once the fourth largest sea in the world, the Aral hardly exists today. Its loss is often called one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters.

Its sad story began about 50 years ago when Soviet planners decided to tap the two rivers that fed the sea and build canals that would help them to irrigate new cotton fields in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The overall history is horrific. The sea’s thriving fishing industry died, tens of thousands of jobs were lost, the region’s climate has changed and staggering amounts of water are still wasted through poor conservation. The two main fishing ports, Aralsk in Kazakhstan and Moynak in Uzbekistan, have been left high—and very dry—since the 1980s.

Ghost ships, Aral Sea

Ghost ships in the Aral Sea

Much has been written about the sea’s demise, and I hope you’ll check out some details. But we took a trip from Khiva to Moynak and surrounds (staying overnight), and I thought some poignant photos might bring home the tragedy.

In the 1960s, Moynak was a thriving port. Today, nine rusted-out ghost ships lie mired in the hot sand. Some face Moynak and others point longingly towards the shore that is now 140 kilometres away.

Aral Sea monument

In the distance, a monument overlooks the ships and sand

Locals say that if every scientist who came to review the problem had brought a bucket of water instead, the sea might still lap at the shores of Moynak.

It might help too if the lavish fountains of Turkmenistan were turned off and the citizens of Uzbekistan were obliged to pay for the water they use.


Leave a Comment
  1. Derrick / Jul 4 2014 4:57 am

    Unfortunately, the same this is happening at Lake Mead, I remember when I first saw it, the water filled the lake, I got a photo from a friend over there, it looks like it’s half of the capacity I saw it (he said it is estimated by 2036 there won’t be a lake there)

    But I think this is a scary story of how a resource can be wasted


    • leggypeggy / Jul 4 2014 10:35 am

      It’s scary and gobsmacking. And yes, Las Vegas is running Lake Mead dry.


  2. BikeHikeSafari / Jul 4 2014 4:58 am

    That’s on my to do list of places to visit. Amazing how we can alter the planet so quickly, within our own lifetime.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 4 2014 10:37 am

      Hope you make it Brad. Some of our group went on to the actual shore and camped there. It was another five hours of driving.


  3. Mike / Jul 4 2014 8:11 am

    A sad history, but a really cool post Peggy!


    • leggypeggy / Jul 4 2014 10:32 am

      Very sad, Mike. I never thought that in my lifetime I would see the Aral Sea. I still haven’t seen it, but I’ve stood where it was.


  4. suchled / Jul 4 2014 8:53 am

    I used to teach this to my year ten classes.They saw the photos, they saw the satellite shots but it is an unreality that 14 and 15 year olds cannot comprehend. One thing we learn from History is that we never learn from History.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 4 2014 10:32 am

      It’s amazing (and more than a little terrifying) how little notice we take of what happens before and around us.


  5. The Lu Life / Jul 4 2014 10:04 am

    Gosh, this is such a sad story! Perhaps one day the Aral Sea can be revived! Thanks for sharing!


    • leggypeggy / Jul 4 2014 10:40 am

      It’s hard to know whether it could be brought back, but I’m sure things could be improved. I guess time will tell us.


  6. suchled / Jul 4 2014 1:52 pm

    Reblogged this on scattered words and commented:
    This is a post from one of my very top blog supporters. If you want a personal tour of the whole world go to her blog it is really quite amazing. If the question is, “Is progress worth it this must definitely come in on the side of,”Please can we go back to the good old days.
    I want to thank Peggy for letting me use this it is so very powerful.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 4 2014 2:26 pm

      Thanks so much for re-blogging this. It’s a message the world needs to hear.


      • suchled / Jul 4 2014 2:31 pm

        i might have to write a whole new post


      • leggypeggy / Jul 4 2014 2:58 pm

        Be my guest.


  7. wineandhistory / Jul 4 2014 2:13 pm

    Wow, what a tragedy. Sadly, I know it is being played out all over the world, with the increasing population and the waste of our precious resources. Beautiful photos, but scary to think of what they represent. Camille


    • leggypeggy / Jul 4 2014 2:27 pm

      You are so right. Such tragedies are being played out the world over. If only there was an efficient way to teach people how to nurture their future.


  8. Midwestern Plant Girl / Jul 4 2014 11:25 pm

    Great read!
    Truly a horrible story of how we humans take Mother Nature for granted. And then when she fights back with hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and anything else that takes human lives, we get mad. She is only trying to protect herself.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 11 2014 12:55 pm

      Thanks! Such a pity that we make it so hard for Mother Nature to do her job.


  9. skippersy / Jul 5 2014 6:00 am

    Never heard of the Aral Sea…. interesting post and too bad it had a negative environmental impact on the region. I forwarded this URL to my Russian/Uzbek/American friends.
    Sy S.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 11 2014 12:05 pm

      Thanks for sharing the URL. It’s a story that needs to be more widely known.


  10. janandrussroundoz / Jul 6 2014 12:12 pm

    I can’t even find the words to comment Peggy-what a disaster! I read the Wikepedia stuff too, the photos made me want to cry!


  11. hiMe / Jul 11 2014 10:24 pm

    Wow, I didn’t have any idea about the existence of such a sea until I read this post. It’s fascinating yet sad. Thanks for posting!


    • leggypeggy / Jul 12 2014 10:31 am

      I hope the future brings some positive changes to the sea.


  12. Osyth / Oct 31 2017 7:08 pm

    This is heartbreaking. When will man learn to stop imagining he knows better than nature – about as soon as he stops being greedy I guess. ‘The Lorax’ really should be compulsory reading for all of man(un)kind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Oct 31 2017 11:55 pm

      You are absolutely right, Osyth—about the greed and the need to read The Lorax.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. lexklein / Nov 1 2017 12:55 pm

    I think your photos bring home this ugly truth even more than the last post I read on this sad subject. Such an awful picture of what man has done to our planet.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. jeanleesworld / Dec 29 2020 11:25 pm

    When the selfish drive of business poisons the land…I sadly did not know about this, or at least remember it. I will now. Thanks, Friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Dec 30 2020 6:55 am

      Thanks Jean. This was six years ago. I wonder how much worse it is today?

      Liked by 1 person


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