How a Disappearing Sea Became a Town’s Main Attraction
The fierce windstorm that walloped this small defunct port in late spring stunned even a local ecologist long resigned to the devastation wrought by the disappearance of the once ample Aral Sea.
A thick, stinging haze greeted the ecologist, Gileyboi Zhyemuratov, as he stepped outside that day in May. “When you opened the door, everything was white like snow,” said Zhyemuratov, 57, a descendant of generations of fishermen in a place where there are no longer any fish.
For three days, the tempest hurled silt off the former seabed of what was once the planet’s fourth-largest inland body of water. It blotted out the sky and left the residents of the former port, Muynak, in western Uzbekistan, chewing salty grit. Even the rain turned brackish, sending panicked farmers scrambling to rescue crops.
As the storm blew in, Vladimir Zuev, a retired Russian pilot turned tour operator, was sitting beneath his shady pergola, where the garden gnomes consist of a bust of Lenin and other Soviet icons.
“It was impossible to see,” he said. “The salt was dry, yet it adhered to the skin and was difficult to wipe off. You could barely wash it off with water.” The flowers in his garden withered.
Paradoxically, the man-made disaster strangling the town has become its main attraction in recent years. Tourism is booming.
“A lot of people want to see an ecological crisis,” said Vadim Sokolov, head of the Uzbek branch of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea.
Where waves once lapped at the harbor’s lighthouse, rusting trawlers now sit abandoned on the sandy seabed far below, like dinosaur bones bleaching in the sunshine.
A selfie from the ship cemetery has become a must-have for the Instagram crowd.
Ali and Poline Belhout, a Parisian couple in their 30s, stopped in Muynak on their yearlong around-the-world tour. “It is sad to see that some years ago there was a sea, and now it is only a graveyard for ships,” she said. “To see boats docked like that is a little freaky.”
Once lacking a hotel, Muynak now has three, along with an internet cafe, and the government is organizing an electronic music festival here on Sept. 14.
The sea, which vanished from Muynak around 1986, is now more than 75 miles away. The only water view is in the modest local museum, with its tattered photographs and nostalgic oil paintings of the once blue horizon.
That unprecedented storm last May confirmed a grim prognosis: The environmental fallout from the loss of the Aral Sea is intensifying.
The sea’s disappearance “is not just a tragedy, as many people have said, it is an active hazard unfolding before our eyes,” said Helena Fraser, head of the United Nations Development Program in Uzbekistan.
中亞國家烏茲別克的穆伊納克鎮原是個鹹海港口，隨著整個鹹海面積縮小，該鎮的鹹海也乾涸（dry up）消失。穆伊納克成了功能盡失（defunct）的前港口後，轉型成觀光小鎮（tourist town），最大的號召力是船墳場（ship graveyard，ship cemetery），該鎮所有船隻在鹹海日漸消失時，就地停泊（dock）在沙漠化（desertification）的海床上，與海床一起遭到風蝕與鹽化。
第一段中resign（ed），意為接受，認命或逆來順受，如The team refused to be resigned to defeat。（該隊拒絕接受失敗結果）。也可寫成The team refused to resign themselves to defeat.