Fifty years ago the white-crested waves of the Aral Sea broke over the top of the bluff I am standing on. Today there is not a single drop of water here. This place is called the graveyard of ships, where skeletal vessels marooned on sand dunes wait for a sea that will never return. The rusting hulks of twelve ships covered in chalk graffiti are the remains of what was once a thriving maritime and fishing industry in the now-defunct port of Moynaq, which lies in the northwestern corner of Uzbekistan. I climb down from the bluff to examine the ship corpses. The air is heavy and stultified; I feel so light-headed that I lean against the sun-baked metal for support. Looking up at the wall several meters above me, I imagine the weight of the water-that-was pressing down upon me.
In Search of a Ghostly Sea
October 20, 2011 Dispatches