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10 Places to Ride Out the Apocalypse

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You've assembled your post-apocalyptic reading list. You've packed your bug-out bag. You've even practiced a little melee combat, just in case. But where should you go when the global pandemic hits or sky starts raining fire?


If you can hang out in a self-sufficient rural community or get yourself adopted into a tribe of uncontacted people, then you can probably pull through several flavors of apocalyptic disaster. But here are a few specific locations that might improve your odds of survival, if you can get there in time:

Utah: In the event of a run-of-the-mill infrastructural collapse, it wouldn't be a bad idea idea to hightail it to Utah and make friends with some stockpiling Mormons. The Church of Latter-Day Saints strongly recommends that its members keep at least a year's supply of food on hand at all times, as well as maintain some kind of basic food garden. It helps ensure that a family can remain self-sufficient if they fall on hard times, but all those preparations will also come in handy if the world goes to pot. Just remember to be polite and quit with the swearing.


Pyongyang North Korea: It should be no surprise that a country that thrives on paranoia has made elaborate preparations in case of nuclear war. The Pyongyang metro tunnels, much like Moscow's, can supposedly double as a nuclear bunker, and residents head underground during regular air-raid drills. But that isn't the area's only nuclear shelter. According Hwang Jang-yop, a high-ranking North Korean defector, a separate network of underground railway tunnels connects the president's residence to a private bunker for then-president Kim Jong-Il, his family, and his top officials (and, perhaps, even to South Korea). Plus, Hwang has said that there are additional facilities and tunnels waiting beneath the streets of Pyongyang. The big question, though, is whether the government has stocked an adequate food and water supply.

Pitcairn Islands: Anyone who's ever stared in frustration at Madagascar at the end of a game of Pandemic II knows that islands are a great escape from pathogen-born disasters. And the Pitcairn Islands, which sit out in the South Pacific with no airports or seaports, are remote enough to survive just about any apocalypse that doesn't change the climate. Plus, Pitcairn comes with the added bonus of fertile lands. Bananas, papayas, breadfruit, coconuts, citrus, taro, beans, and sweet potatoes are all plentiful, and edible fish and spiny lobsters abound. Just makes sure you get along with your neighbors; Pitcairn's population hovers around just 50 people. If you're looking for something even more remote with a slightly greater population, you might opt for Tristan da Cunha, which sits in the South Atlantic and counted a whopping 264 residents in its 2010 census.

Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado: There are plenty of options for nuclear bunkers around the world: Germany's swanky doomsday palace, the decommissioned Congressional shelter beneath the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, even bomb-proof homes available on the real estate market. But the advantage of buying an active government bunker is that it comes pre-stocked, and all its parts kept in working order. The Cheyenne Mountain facility outside Colorado Springs is no longer home to NORAD, it's still kept on "warm standby" as a backup. Built into the mountain, the facility was built to withstand a multimegaton blast from 1.5 nautical miles away, has six diesel generators, its own natural water supply, and an air filtration system designed to filter out chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents. That's why it was the perfect setting for the post-apocalyptic TV show Jeremiah. But now you'll have to play out your WarGames fantasies at NORAD's main home at the Peterson Air Force Base. No word on whether they moved the Stargate.


London, England: Of course, it's even better if you don't have to drive to your shock-proof digs. If you find yourself in London when disaster strikes (and London isn't already a pile of ash), get thee down to Whitehall and find the entrance to Pindar, the military facility beneath the Ministry of Defence. Little is known about the bunker, which was constructed in the 1990s and is now used as a communications center and for war games. However, you can probably take a photographic tour in David Moore's The Last Things photo series, which likely documents Pindar's interior.

Mount Yamantau, Mezhgorye, Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia: While some countries stopped building nuclear shelters at the close of the Cold War, Russia was still putting the finishing touches on at least one of theirs. Most of the Soviet Union's super-secretive closed cities were opened up after the republic's collapse, but a few dozen remain in Russia and Kazakhstan, including Mezhgorye, which services the Mount Yamantau project in the Urals. In the late 1990s, tens of thousands of workers were sent to the area to work on Mount Yamantau, and foreigners were not allowed near the site, prompting fears that the facility housed a missile silo or a nuclear weapons production plant. But US Strategic Air Command has told members of the press that it is actually the wartime relocation facility for Russia's top political leadership. In 2000, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett claimed that the facility was the largest nuclear-secure project in the world, strong enough to resist half a dozen direct nuclear hits. It's also been claimed that it can house 60,000 people, with enough food and water on hand to keep its population alive for months. But if the reports are to be believed, Yamantau does have one small flaw: the mountain's quartz hampers radio transmissions, so the communications systems are outside the facility and could be damaged in an attack. Still, the important thing is, you'll be alive and well fed.


Svalbard, Norway: If the apocalypse should wipe out most of the plant life on Earth, you'll want to be hanging out somewhere near the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago. After all, the seed bunker was designed to protect plant life in the event of a global catastrophe. You'll probably want to start with the plants that are native to Svalbard itself so that you (and the local wildlife) will have something to eat in the short-term. Some people may be put off by Svalbard's northern climate, but the islands are considerably warmer than other regions at the same latitude, thanks to the North Atlantic Current. Just be sure to pack your snowshoes; there are no roads connecting Svalbard's settlements.

Western Australia: There's a reason Mad Max is set in Australia. Perth is one of the most remote cities in the world (some measures put it behind Honolulu and Auckland), and although it was first colonized by British settlers in 1829, it wasn't connected to the rest of Australia by train until 1917. And Western Australia's thriving economy is largely thanks to its rich resources. The region produces nearly half of Australia's live cattle exports, and thanks to the variety of climates and wide open spaces, it has a productive and diverse agricultural industry. It also exports large quantities of lamb, wool, lobsters, prawns, and pearls (and hence has oysters). On top of that, Western Australia features coal mines, crude oil, and extensive natural gas reserves. So maybe Mel Gibson really could have kept driving his Holden Monaro in the Australian post-apocalypse.


Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland: Few cultures in the world revolve around hunting as their primary means of subsistence, but it's the occupation for most of the roughly 500 residents of the isolated Ittoqqortoormiit settlement. The area boasts a variety of fauna, and hunters bring home seals, walruses, narwhales, polar bears, and musk oxen for their fur, hides, and meat. And Ittoqqortoormiit isn't dependent on fossil fuels to catch its food. Dog sledding is still considered the best way to get across the snowy tundra. Memorize that spelling, in case there's a quiz before they let you into their hunting territory.

Bugarach, France: What recommends this sleepy mountain town with a population of 200 for post-apocalyptic survival? To be honest, the residents aren't even sure. Bugarach sits at the base of Pic de Bugarach, which is often called the "upside-down mountain." According to geologists, the mountain exploded after its formation, and the top landed upside-down. Its unusual shape has inspired Jules Verne and Steven Spielberg, and attracted hippies and New Agers who believed it emitted special magnetic waves. More recently, rumors have started circulating on doomsday 2012 forums that the mountain is sacred and will be protected in the coming apocalypse. Some believe that there are aliens living under the mountain who rescue anyone living nearby on December 21st, 2012. We know that the 2012 doomsday is a myth, but if the cataclysm should hit on that date, the best case scenario is that well prepared survivalists will head for Bugarach. The worst case is that you'll witness a mass suicide commanded by the ancient aliens.