On the shore of the Baltic Sea in northern Krondstadt in Russia, lies the ruins of Fort Zverev. The fort is named after Konstantin Zverev the engineer who designed and built it in the 1860s. It is one of several forts found in the Kronstadt location defending the northern fairway of the Gulf of Finland.
Unlike the forts Konstantin Zverev had designed before, this one was shaped like a mushroom with curved ceilings. Zverev used a radical new method of building and this fort was the first time in Russia that asphalt had been used successfully. The fort had a natural asphalt solution applied to all of the floors.
At the turn of the 20th century the fort was converted into an ammunitions dump and a warehouse for sea mines. After the second world war it carried on serving as a military installation being used as a training ground and firing range.
In 1970 a fire broke out that lasted several weeks, the fire was devastating and when it finally died out and the building cooled down enough for people to enter and inspect it they found the basement to be completely unrecognisable.
The fire was so intense and hot that it melted the asphalt bricks above which dripped down from the ceiling like stalactites. No one knows what fuelled the fire but we know it burnt with a ferocious intense heat which was enough to melt the bricks.
Generally bricks do not melt, a fire needs to have a temperature over 1,800 degrees centigrade and be burning for a prolonged period. Even car fuel like petrol can only burn at a temperature of 1,100 degrees. It is believed that the Russians were producing or experimenting with new weaponry possibly something similar to napalm with a high phosphorus compound.
It has been said that the fort was a storehouse and cess pool of chemicals like lubricants, decommissioned ammunitions, bilge water and waste from ships that was set on fire accidentally by a sightseer. This too is unsubstantiated and we probably will never know the truth as to what was stored there or what started the fire.
Photo credit In some places the centre of the brick is exposed where the melted layer has fallen off completely.