9 incredible photos of an eerie ship graveyard in the middle of the Uzbekistan desert

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The closest water is almost 100 miles from here.
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Shutterstock

In Uzbekistan, an eerie ship graveyard filled with hauntingly beautiful shipwrecks beckons.

The Moynaq Ship Graveyard is literally a ghost town in the middle of the desert.

It was once a busy Soviet fishing port on the Aral Sea – once one of the four largest lakes in the world – but today, nothing but desert remains.

Let’s take a closer look and see how these ships came to be stranded in the middle of the desert.


Once one of the four largest lakes in the world (it was 26,300 square miles), the Aral Sea dried up when the rivers feeding it were diverted for irrigation purposes.

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Shutterstock

Aral Sea translates to “Sea of Islands” for the over 1,100 islands it was once home to. Today, dozens of ships are disintegrating in the scorching desert heat.

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Shutterstock

Today, the nearest shore is almost 100 miles away.

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Shutterstock

In the 1960s, the Aral Sea began to steadily shrink when Soviet irrigation projects diverted the rivers feeding it.

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Shutterstock

It has since shrunk to less than 10% of its original size, and is considered one of the most catastrophic environmental disasters of all time.

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Reuters

Moynaq’s many fishermen followed the lake’s shrinking shores, but as the lake disappeared its salinity levels rose, killing all the fish. The town, heavily reliant on the fishing industry, slowly died along with it.

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Shutterstock

The eastern basin of the Aral Sea is now known as the Aralkum desert. It is said that the Aral Sea disaster could be undone if the diverted rivers, which are irrigating cotton fields, were re-diverted. However, Uzbekistan doesn’t have the money to do this, and relies on its cotton industry.

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Shutterstock

Today it’s a ghost town. There are murals and signs depicting fish all over town, proving how it used to be a bustling fishing town. In fact, the Aral Sea fishing industry apparently employed around 40,000 at its peak.

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Flickr/Martijn Munneke

Long shuttered fish canneries are sprinkled among the wrecks.

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Flickr/Martijn Munneke