Lake Karachay, Russia
Just standing next to Lake Karachay, in Russia’s southern Ural Mountains, could prove fatal. Swimming in it? Forget about it. This lake is a grim place, considered the most polluted spot on Earth, where nothing grows and no-one comes. Karachay, translated from the local tongue, means Black Water.
In the 1950s, the Soviets used the lake as a dumping ground for radioactive waste from Mayak, a nuclear facility, not far from here and close to the bleak town of Ozyorsk. The lake isn’t large, but it is deadly, so much so that, in the 1990s, researchers ruled that just standing on the shores here would deliver a radiation dose sufficient to kill a human being. From a radiological perspective, it was ruled the most polluted place on the planet and deemed off-limits.