From the archives: Army plans a city under the Arctic

To mark our one hundred and fiftieth 12 months, had been revisiting thePopular Sciencetales (each hits and misses) that helped outline scientific progress, understanding, and innovationwith an added trace of contemporary context. Explore theNotable pagesand take a look at all our anniversary coveragehere.

The 45-year Cold War most likely by no means received colder than when the US Army determined to construct Camp Century, a facility greater than 30 ft beneath Greenlands ice sheet. Herbert O. Johansens February 1960 Popular Science characteristic, US Army Builds a Fantastic City Under Ice, describes the Armys uncommon venture, which turned out to have hidden Cold War ambitions.

The US Army Corps of Engineers started work on the camp in 1959, claiming it as a web site to conduct polar analysis. While its true that the staff drilled the firstand one of the most geologically revealingice cores ever to review local weather change, the camps location was suspiciously near Russia.

Johansen acknowledges that Camp Century was about as secure a place as you possibly can discover in case of an atomic assault, and that it might be laborious for an enemy to search out. But the story solely mentions, in passing, that the web site is likely to be helpful for the army. He otherwisesteers away from the regular Cold War themes (Popular Science ran many such tales all through the nineteenth century) to give attention to the camps luxurious subglacial residing situations, with spacious dormitories, cold and hot showers, and a laundry and a barber store.

By 1967, the army deserted Camp Century. In 1997, the Danish Institute of International Affairs released reports about Camp Centurys undisclosed military goals. Codenamed Iceworm, the US Armys authentic plans included increasing the facility to 52,000 sq. miles of ice tunnels able to deploying nuclear missiles. Even if the Danish authorities had accepted the plan (it didn’t), the Greenland glacier refused to cooperate. As Johansen reported, one factor the engineers havent been in a position to lick is the gradual, plastic motion of the ice, which causes the partitions to shut in and the corridors to twist. Now, climate change threatens to expose the sites nuclear and different hazardous waste, which had been supposed to stay ice-entombed endlessly. Perhaps, the early thaw will uncover different unsavory truths?

U.S. Army builds a unbelievable city under ice (Herbert O. Johansen, February 1960)

The strangest growth city in the world is being constructed by Army engineers under Greenlands huge icecap. Completely hidden by snow, will probably be powered by atomic energy-and might be about as secure a place as you possibly can nd in case of atomic assault. It can be laborious for an enemy to nd; and snow would soak up a lot of the shock of an atomic blast, and partially protect the occupants from radiation and fallout.

In constructing the unbelievable neighborhood, 800 miles from the North Pole, Army Engineers, in cooperation with the Danish Government (Greenland is a a part of the Kingdom of Denmark), have proved that the historically antagonistic Arctic will be tamed.

An electrical railroad operating by way of a tunnel minimize in the snow will join the city with the provide base at Thule Air Base 152 miles to the west. For air provide there might be touchdown strips of compacted snow for the largest cargo planes, and touchdown pads for helicopters.

It might be homesnug, snug, and warmfor 100 scientists, engineers, and troopers who’re anticipated to maneuver in late this 12 months. After a laborious days work they’ll be capable of calm down with tall drinks cooled by deep-dug ice that was shaped lengthy earlier than Columbus found America.

It is Camp Centurya year-round haven for the males who will research issues of residing, working, or ghting in one in every of the worlds harshest environments, the place winter temperatures drop to 70 beneath zero and winds whirl snow in a blinding fury at 100 miles an hour. With earlier shelters, the open season was restricted to ve monthsMay by way of September.

Now the males will stay and work in a collection of insulated prefabricated buildings related by snow corridors. Cumbersome Arctic clothingparkas, cumbersome mittens, mukluks, scratchy woollieswont be wanted even in the work areas, the place the temperature might be saved at 40 levels. It might be upped to 60 levels in residing quarters. A air flow system will exhaust heat air from the tunnels to maintain the snow partitions at 20 levels or beneath in order that they wont soften. To stop the snow oor from turning into slush, the buildings might be raised barely to allow a circulation of chilly air beneath.

Life in Camp Century

The inhabitants won’t ever see daylight until they enterprise exterior. But throughout the worst months of the yearDecember and January that wont matter: The solar by no means rises.

At rst look the unnatural life inside the connes of a buried snow city 4 blocks lengthy, and three blocks broad appears to be like forbidding, miserable, killing in its monotony. It can be if a man didnt preserve busy and have cheerful environment, and services for recreation.

Here the residents of Camp Century will rating on all factors. They might be busy at their jobsfrom cooking to researchingeight to 10 hours a day. After that its as much as a mans particular person style. There might be a recreation corridor and recreation rooms, a gymnasium, a pastime store. A library will share quarters with a Base Exchange.

Movies might be proven each evening. Television applications will come from the army TV station at Thule. Radios will tune in completely on Radio Moscow throughout the Arctic. Eating might be in a clublike eating room. Food might be the finest (with an additional half ration to compensate for faster-burned-up energy) and steak might be in plentiful provide.

Spacious dormitories will change double-down, zip-up sleeping baggage; cold and hot showers the occasional lick-and-promise basin tub. A laundry and a barber store will preserve the outer man clear and neat; a 10-bed hospital with an working room, the internal man in restore. A chaplain and chapel will serve religious wants.

Only one consolation of manbeyond the scope of the Armywill be missing. It is hoped that quick air mail, ham radiotelephone chats with spouse and household in the United States, and rotating four-month excursions of responsibility will make icecap isolation appear much less far-off from house.

Some issues solved

Camp Centur so named as a result of its authentic web site was 100 miles out on the icecapis being constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers after ve years of preliminary development experiments on the Greenland icecap. Its analysis applications might be directed by the Armys Chief of Research and Development. The working areas might be dominated by scientic laboratories, however ought to the want come for a comparable army installationperhaps an under-ice launching web site for intercontinental ballistic missiles or interceptorswe have the blueprints, the strategies, the machines. At Camp Century, the Engineers have proved that they will:

  • Make environment friendly use of development supplies at handsnow and ice.
  • Dig cut-and-cover trenching with an adaptation of Peter Snow Millershuge rotary snow plows that for years have been preserving passes in the Swiss Alps open throughout winters.
  • Adapt mechanical coal-mining machines to carve caverns into ice-hard snow to make expanded quarters, in addition to area for storage and meals refrigeration.
  • Solve the water-supply downside, at all times severe in the Arctic, by drilling wells 150-feet deep, capturing down jets of steam, and pumping out water.
  • Utilize an air-transportable nuclear energy plant, with a capability of two,000 kw., to furnish mild, warmth, and energy. A core of U-235 weighing lower than 50 kilos will produce a years provide of electricitydoing the work of 35,000 barrels of gasoline oil.

One factor the engineers havent been in a position to lick is the gradual, plastic motion of the ice, which causes the partitions to shut in and the corridors to twist. With periodic shaving of the ice, they anticipate the camp to final about 10 years. Then will probably be utterly reconditioned.

The machines used for this upkeep additionally will carve out new and greater storage vaults. Equipment and instruments saved in them dont rust, and meals retains indenitely. With the strategies developed to construct Camp Century, the engineers say they might hack out nice ice caves to retailer surplus crops to be used by future generations in occasions of famine.

Why a Camp Century?

The Greenland icecap, with a large, everlasting provide base at Thule, is the excellent laboratory for learning snow and ice. Aside from climate implications, these are two components we might be residing with increasingly more. The total Distant Early Warning radar community (DEW line) lies above the Arctic Circlefrom the Kuriles at the western tip of Alaska, throughout Canada and Greenland. Lessons discovered in the North Polar areas will be utilized in the Antarctic, now more and more necessary.

Greenland, with 708,000 sq. miles of icecap, two miles deep at its crest, is the birthplace of climate for a lot of the Northern Hemisphere. By drilling and mentioning core samples of ice shaped by way of the ages, scientists can research the historical past of snowfalls and get data on the motion of air plenty protecting 1000’s of years.

This data, says Dr. Henri Bader, chief scientist of the Armys Snow, Ice, and Permafrost Establishment, will allow us to make pretty correct predictions on future climate cycles.

Air samples from the previous, preserved as bubbles, are trapped in these ice samples. One Camp Century venture is to attempt to decide how a lot air air pollution has elevated since the Industrial Revolution of the 18th Century launched man-made smog. Ice cores from a depth of 160 ft contained volcanic mud from the nice Krakatoa eruption of 1883 in the Dutch East Indies. And in the threefoot layers of snow which can be deposited on the icecap annually, there’s a everlasting annual document of atomic fallout since Hiroshima.

This year-by-year accumulation of snow-become-ice is definitely identied and precisely dated, considerably as rings inform the age of a tree.

Samples of ice shaped from snow that fell when Eric the Red set foot in Greenland in the 12 months 982 have already got been studied by scientists. With new thermal drilling gear that might be used at Camp Century, they hope to go down 10,000 ft. The ice they then convey up will date again past the daybreak of historyto the days when the footprints of Stone Age man had been contemporary upon the earth.

The cowl of the February 1960 challenge of Popular Science that includes the city under ice.

Some textual content has been edited to match modern requirements and magnificence.


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