The haunting beauty of Everwinter in Second Life

Everwinter; Inara Pey, October 2016, on Flickr Everwinter – click any image for full size

I make no secret of being a fan of Lauren Bentham’s region designs. I’ve covered several of them in these pages; they are always beautifully conceived and wonderfully executed – even when the theme might be a little on the dark side – making them a joy to visit and explore.

Take Everwinter. It is a dark design, and might easily be taken to be in keeping with the time of year. However, its roots go far deeper than Halloween or any “traditional” apocalyptic setting. As Lauren notes in her introduction to the region, Everwinter takes its inspiration from a place in the physical world, and centre of a very specific event.

Everwinter; Inara Pey, October 2016, on Flickr Everwinter

Located in northern Ukraine, close to the border with the Republic of Belarus in 1970, Pripyat City was the ninth nuclear city (a kind of closed city) dedicated to supporting the Soviet Union’s burgeoning nuclear power industry. By early 1986, its population was over 49,000 – but by the end of April that year,  it lay a ghost town. It has remained that way ever since; and while most of us might not know its name first-hand, few of us are unfamiliar with the name that brought about Pripyat’s desertion: Chernobyl.

Pripyat’s sole purpose was to house all those involved in running and maintaining the Chernobyl nuclear plant, giving those workers and their families all the necessities of life: housing, shops, schools, public amenities including a public swimming pool and an amusement park. But when a systems test at the power station went disastrously wrong, the entire city was evacuated on the afternoon of April 27th, 1986, leaving the great Ferris wheel of its amusement park as one of the most enduring photographic images of the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident.

Everwinter; Inara Pey, October 2016, on Flickr Everwinter

It is the amusement park which forms the centre of Lauren’s build at Everwinter – but as she points out, this is not intended to be a recreation of either Pripyat park, or a reflection of the Chernobyl disaster itself, although she provide some starting statistics about both in her introductory notes, and they make sobering reading.

From all of this, you can probably guess expect, Everwinter is an atmospheric build; one which should be visited with local sounds enabled. By doing so, arriving visitors can hear the actual evacuation message just as it was broadcast that chilling afternoon in April 27th, 1986.

A ruined, broken road leads away from the landing point, neon signs  – in English, a further demonstration that Everwinter is not intended to be a historical recreation of Pripyat – glow faintly, competing with a lowering Sun which lights the old amusement park in the distance. Along this cracked road, tumbleweeds roll in the wind, vehicles lie rusting and broken, and locals stand, heads encased in gas masks.

Everwinter; Inara Pey, October 2016, on Flickr Everwinter

The amusement park stands deserted, the Ferris wheel rising into a cloudy sky, its cars broken and arms rusting, caught in flickers of lightning. Mist – or what appears to be mist – drifts across the ground beneath and wraps itself around trees and the remains of the park. But is it really mist? Look again and none the flickers of pigment within it, like tiny particles suspending in the air – a symbol, perhaps of the deadly nuclear poisons which sparkles and shifted through the air over the city in the wake of Chernobyl’s meltdown.

Dark, with the shells of concrete apartment buildings blurring with rugged hills to form the region’s edge, broken only by the route to a small area of coastline, Everwinter is a foreboding place. The home of dangerous mists and even stranger, haunting clowns and creatures. Yet one nevertheless photogenic and encouraging exploration. A masterpiece of design; the ideal destination for those seeking an engaging and very different kind of haunting visit.

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