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The Military Technology

America's Secret Underground Ice Fortresses 134

Posted by samzenpus
from the beneath-the-mountains-of-madness dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "With the advent of long-range bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles in the 1950s, it was inevitable that military attention would be drawn to remote but strategic arctic regions. Now Defense Tech reports on Project Iceworm — America's secret cold war plan to build a network of underground missile bases under the Greenland ice cap capable of launching 'Iceman' ICBM missiles at Russia. The first base, 'Camp Century,' built 800 miles from the North Pole, contained 21 steel-arch covered trenches; the longest of which was 1,100-feet long, 26-feet wide and 26-feet high. The massive base, constructed to house 200 troops, was officially built to conduct scientific research. But the real reason was apparently to test out the feasibility of burying nuclear missiles below the ice, since Greenland is so much closer to Russia than the ICBM fields located in the continental U.S. If fully implemented, the project would cover an area of 52,000 square miles with clusters of missile launch centers spaced four miles apart. New tunnels were to be dug every year, so that after 5 years there would be thousands of firing positions, among which the several hundred missiles could be rotated. Camp Century was powered by a portable nuclear power plant designated PM-2A, the first of the U.S. Army's portable reactors to actually produce power, and was rated at two megawatts of electrical power, also supplying steam to operate the well that provided water for the troops. The Army team assembled the prefabricated reactor in 77 days, and just nine hours after fuel elements containing forty-three pounds of enriched Uranium-235 were inserted into the reactor, electricity was produced. Maintaining the tunnels at Camp Century required time-consuming and laborious trimming and removal of more than 120 tons of snow and ice each month. The camp, begun in 1959, was abandoned for good in 1966 and it is anticipated that the Greenland icecap, in constant motion, will completely destroy all the tunnels over the course of the coming years."
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America's Secret Underground Ice Fortresses

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  • by Bookwyrm (3535) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:10AM (#39619055)

    I must admit, the first thought that came to my mind when reading this is, this sounds like a great setting for some spy thriller or such. I mean, an abandoned military base with launch silos, its own nuclear power, and slowly being destroyed by encroaching ice?

    The perfect location to have the mastermind's base located in. At the end, the heroes have to race out of the base as it is finally being destroyed by the ice.

    • by Lluc (703772)
      Maybe we can combine this with the preposterous scenes from The Day After Tomorrow where a wave of cold air chases the main characters down a hallway, freezing those who can't keep up! :)
    • by Anonymous Coward

      From TFA: "Related Stories Yes, Moses flew to Japan on a spaceship and died there."

      Strange indeed...

    • by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2@nOsPAM.gdargaud.net> on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:26AM (#39619189) Homepage
      Having done construction work in polar regions [gdargaud.net], I can't imagine how much money and energy must have gone into that thing. Cool, yes, but how much useful, peaceful scientific research could have been conducted there for the same budget ?!? Compare to now where instead instead of wasting it on useless and scary bombs, we waste it on useless and scary traders. Hmmm.
      • When you're the man in charge, scary is not useless.

      • by cyn1c77 (928549)

        Having done construction work in polar regions [gdargaud.net], I can't imagine how much money and energy must have gone into that thing. Cool, yes, but how much useful, peaceful scientific research could have been conducted there for the same budget ?!? Compare to now where instead instead of wasting it on useless and scary bombs, we waste it on useless and scary traders. Hmmm.

        A more contemporary question is how much peaceful scientific research could have been conducted in the US for the cost of military operations in Afganistan and Iraq.

        My car could be driving itself by now...

        • by dargaud (518470)

          A more contemporary question is how much peaceful scientific research could have been conducted in the US for the cost of military operations in Afganistan and Iraq.

          My car could be driving itself by now...

          You'd have the software to drive it, yes, but not the oil... :P

      • by MrKaos (858439)

        Having done construction work in polar regions [gdargaud.net], I can't imagine how much money and energy must have gone into that thing. Cool, yes, but how much useful, peaceful scientific research could have been conducted there for the same budget ?!? Compare to now where instead instead of wasting it on useless and scary bombs, we waste it on useless and scary traders. Hmmm.

        For useful science, what if we sent the scary and useless traders to the ice base and nuked them from orbit, just to be sure.

    • Looks like something out of the movies Ice Station Zebra or The Thing.
    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      I must admit, the first thought that came to my mind when reading this is, this sounds like a great setting for some spy thriller or such. I mean, an abandoned military base with launch silos, its own nuclear power, and slowly being destroyed by encroaching ice?

      The perfect location to have the mastermind's base located in. At the end, the heroes have to race out of the base as it is finally being destroyed by the ice.

      Sounds thrilling... "We have just 5 to 7 years to get out of these tunnels before the glacier shifts and destroys them! Oh no! I tripped! I won't make it! Go on without me!"

      You are going to need to add radioactive mutant soldiers and the threat of direct nuclear attack into the mix before you get off the ground with that idea.

    • Actually it is a reference to the movie In the Loop where the name of the informant for the intelligence gets changed from Iceman to Debussy. "You think that's his real name? Iceman? To Mr. and Mrs. Man, a son... Ice?"
  • I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:12AM (#39619073)

    "...The camp, begun in 1959, was abandoned for good in 1966 and it is anticipated that the Greenland icecap, in constant motion, will completely destroy all the tunnels over the course of the coming years."

    From TFA: "Camp Century was abandoned for good in 1966. The Greenland icecap, in constant motion, would completely destroy all the tunnels over the course of several years."

    I.e. the tunnels would be destroyed over the next several years following 1966. Which was over 40 years ago. These tunnels are gone. TFA even pretty much says as much: "Today, it is likely that most of Camp Century has been reclaimed by the ice."

  • by bigredradio (631970) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:13AM (#39619075) Homepage Journal

    friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless! Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed, in Greenland? - Vizzini

    I understand Fezzik so much better now.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:14AM (#39619087) Journal
    While it scores virtually infinite cartoon-supervillain points(seriously, a massive, ever-expanding labarynthine nuclear-powered ice fortress?), I have to imagine that the cost/benefit got a lot less exciting once the more prosaic 'lots of nuclear submarines sneaking around, also we can use them to attack ships, in a pinch,' strategy became viable.

    Incidentally, for anybody who likes our dread overlord Cthulhu, and wishes to be eaten first, this sounds like something ripped straight from A Colder War [infinityplus.co.uk]...
    • While it scores virtually infinite cartoon-supervillain points(seriously, a massive, ever-expanding labarynthine nuclear-powered ice fortress?), I have to imagine that the cost/benefit got a lot less exciting once the more prosaic 'lots of nuclear submarines sneaking around, also we can use them to attack ships, in a pinch,' strategy became viable.

      SSBN's were half the solution, land based ICBM's with the range to reach the USSR from CONUS was the other.

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:14AM (#39619091)

    The camp, begun in 1959, was abandoned for good in 1966

    Its a victim of soviet h-bomb development. The planning phase was "more or less" before decent soviet h-bombs (around 1960-ish) so everything was too close together, and/or proper spacing in a h-bomb era would make it unscalable. It would have worked pretty well as designed in a pre-h-bomb environment.

    Before someone gets all excited about the timelines, a rather large military project like h-bomb deployment is not done like software, where you begin distribution as soon as a beta version complies... I'm well aware they did a tech demonstrator in the early 50s and had a reasonable device for testing by the Very late 50s... But it wasn't clear that this base would be pointless until the 60s, when it was cancelled.

    • by erice (13380) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:26PM (#39619837) Homepage

      The camp, begun in 1959, was abandoned for good in 1966

      Its a victim of soviet h-bomb development. The planning phase was "more or less" before decent soviet h-bombs (around 1960-ish) so everything was too close together, and/or proper spacing in a h-bomb era would make it unscalable. It would have worked pretty well as designed in a pre-h-bomb environment.

      It was common in the 50's for multiple competing solutions to be implemented in parallel before exhaustively studying whether any of them would work. No one was sure that ICBM's would really work so they also started work on supersonic bombers, nuclear powered cruise missiles, and, apparently a plan to put shorter range missiles closer to the enemy.

      By 1960, Titan I was available with enough range to be launched from anywhere in the continental US. They made the case for a Greenland missile base less compelling, though presumably the IRBM's in Greenland could have been launched quicker. Starting in 1963, the Titan II could be launched immediately from the silos, eliminating the 15 minute pause at the surface for fueling. Building a ice base in Greenland must have seemed like a great deal of effort for no military purpose.

    • by Formalin (1945560)

      The military burns money on outdated stuff all the time.

      Here, starting in the late 50's, they made a line of pulse radars across Canada, roughly 100-200mi north of the US border (somewhat further north in the east, though). Some stations weren't even operational until they were already obsolete (mid 60's, obsoleted by Soviet ICBMs). There was a fair bit of US funding, but Canada paid some and did most of the manning.

      The best part is... They kept manning some of them until the fall of the Soviet Union, despi

  • by tilante (2547392) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:18AM (#39619133)
    The blurb given here ends with "was abandoned for good in 1966 and it is anticipated that the Greenland icecap, in constant motion, will completely destroy all the tunnels over the course of the coming years" -- which makes it sound as if the tunnels still exist right now. The original article's text, though, says, "Camp Century was abandoned for good in 1966. The Greenland icecap, in constant motion, would completely destroy all the tunnels over the course of several years."

    It then goes on in the next paragraph to talk about an expedition that went to look at the camp in 1969, and found that the camp was already extremely damaged, and notes that "Today, it is likely that most of Camp Century has been reclaimed by the ice."

    I have to wonder if the submitter consciously altered this to make it sound as if it's still in good shape right now, thinking that a camp that someone could possibly occupy and use would generate more interest than one that's likely an unsalvageable mess now.

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:19AM (#39619149)
    So you're saying that we could once build an entire nuclear powerplant in 77 days and get it running within 9 hours... in an ice cave, in Greenland? If the people who did that could see us now, they'd insult our manhoods.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      See what they could achieve with a decent, honest haircut?

    • by Beriaru (954082) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:39AM (#39619309)
      It also says that after getting it running, the necessity of better shielding was discovered. Oh, and do not forget that the reactor discharged its radioactive liquid waste (47,078 gallons in total for 33 months) directly into the icecap. One has to wonder why they discontinued that type of portable reactors *rollseyes*.
      • by alphred (1920232)
        uh, well perhaps they discontinued it because it destroyed their manhood?
      • It also says that after getting it running, the necessity of better shielding was discovered. Oh, and do not forget that the reactor discharged its radioactive liquid waste (47,078 gallons in total for 33 months) directly into the icecap. One has to wonder why they discontinued that type of portable reactors *rollseyes*.

        Um... Greenland is sovereign territory of Denmark. Did the US get permission from the Danes to install this base? Are they going to pay for the cleanup of the waste?

        • by lgw (121541)

          Why would anyone clean it up? Do you know what happens to radioactive waste if you ignore it long enough? It stops being radioactive. There's very little in "radioactive waste" that's still dangerous after 40 years - just a few long-half-life isotopes that are dangerous if concentrated because they can enter the food chain (and embedded in the permafrost of a glacier is a fine place for them). Nothing that would hurt you just to walk near to.

          Th only real problem with disposal of radioactive waste form a

    • by alen (225700) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:45AM (#39619379)

      and by the late 1960's the USA was a toxic waste dump like china is today because people would build and screw the local communities. in the 1980's there was a smog haze over NYC that's not there today due to all the enviromental laws and advances in the last 40 years

      • by perpenso (1613749)

        and by the late 1960's the USA was a toxic waste dump like china is today because people would build and screw the local communities.

        BS. During that era and before, my grandfather worked at an industrial site with various nasty products that had to be properly captured, stored and removed. They did so conscientiously, before the 60s and the modern environmentalist movement. Besides being the law, there are also practical little details like the workers *and managers* of the plant knowing damn well that they could contaminate the local well water the town pumped into all their homes, the water that they and their families drank. Have thei

        • by sunspot42 (455706)

          >BS

          Uh, the Cuyahoga River, which flows through Cleavland, OH, caught fire in the 1950s and - famously - in 1969.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuyahoga_River#Environmental_concerns [wikipedia.org]

          I won't even mention the smog in Los Angeles, which was unimaginable by the late '60s. LA still has smog, but it's nothing like it was 40+ years ago, thanks to strict environmental regulations.

          Tragic cases of pollution weren't the exception - in much of the country, they were the rule.

          • by perpenso (1613749)

            >BS

            Uh, the Cuyahoga River, which flows through Cleavland, OH, caught fire in the 1950s and - famously - in 1969.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuyahoga_River#Environmental_concerns [wikipedia.org]

            I won't even mention the smog in Los Angeles, which was unimaginable by the late '60s. LA still has smog, but it's nothing like it was 40+ years ago, thanks to strict environmental regulations.

            Tragic cases of pollution weren't the exception - in much of the country, they were the rule.

            I think you are mixing up high profile with common. While there were certainly some industrial sites that intentionally polluted I do not think that was the norm back then. Cuyahoga is so famous because it was the exception, not a normal occurrence. Again, the guys who did things the right way don't get mentioned in newspapers or books.

            As for LA smog. My understanding is that the smog is not so much of an industrial issue but mostly a personal automobile issue. A tragedy of the commons sort of situation

          • by Thing 1 (178996)
            I recall the LA-related joke from my younger years: "UCLA when the smog lifts." You're right, it was a real thing. (Although sibling is also correct; if this was more universal, then there'd likely have been additional jokes about other locations whose names lend themselves to wordplay.)
        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Your grandpa's either a liar or senile. I grew up two miles south of the Sauget, IL Monsanto plant. Even in the summer when it was 95 degrees (and no car AC back then, most folks' homes didn't even have AC) you had to roll the wondows up when driving past because the aire would burn your eyes and lungs. There were 100,000 55 gallon drums of highly toxic waste buried half mile away on the bank of the Mississippi. Dead Creek, which went past it and Cerro Copper, often caught fire.

          By 1975 there was no odor at

          • by perpenso (1613749)

            Your grandpa's either a liar or senile.

            Or maybe I grew up in the same town and know what is happening there. The town has been testing the wells for decades, no contamination. The local plant was operated properly, as I expect most are.

            I grew up two miles south of the Sauget, IL Monsanto plant. Even in the summer when it was 95 degrees (and no car AC back then, most folks' homes didn't even have AC) you had to roll the wondows up when driving past because the aire would burn your eyes and lungs. There were 100,000 55 gallon drums of highly toxic waste buried half mile away on the bank of the Mississippi. Dead Creek, which went past it and Cerro Copper, often caught fire.

            I agree these tragic situations exist. I just question suggestions that such are the norm. Monsanto is one company, there are tens of thousands of others, many mostly small and more local. Most of them are deeply integrated into the community. The kids and grandkids of the managers at the plant my grandfather work

            • by towermac (752159)

              "... I agree these tragic situations exist. I just question suggestions that such are the norm. Monsanto is one company, ... Monsanto is not a representative company..."

              Ok, stop with the political correctness: Monsanto has always been evil as shit.

              Does anyone dispute that?

              • by perpenso (1613749)

                "... I agree these tragic situations exist. I just question suggestions that such are the norm. Monsanto is one company, ... Monsanto is not a representative company..." Ok, stop with the political correctness: Monsanto has always been evil as shit. Does anyone dispute that?

                You seem to need to re-read some posts. No one is defending Monsanto. What is actually under dispute is whether severe and intentional pollution of the environment is the norm for a company.

    • by deblau (68023)

      That was Cold War mentality. When you go to sleep every night fearing that you might not wake up the next day because of a Soviet nuke, suddenly money and manpower are no object.

      Times are thankfully a bit different now.

    • by eyenot (102141)

      What's more impressive is that it could be dismantled in time without a huge incident. According to a recent /. story, most owners of nuclear plants in America never stopped to save up enough money to dismantle their reactors when those reactors reach the end of their lifetime.

    • So you're saying that we could once build an entire nuclear powerplant in 77 days and get it running within 9 hours...

      No, it months to build the modules that made up the powerplant - the 77 days figure is for connecting the modules once they were built, assembled, tested, disassembled, and then shipped to Camp Century.

      As far as getting it running in 9 hours... well, the exact times are classified but lets just say that submarine crews would have a pretty good shot at that record.

    • So you're saying that we could once build an entire nuclear powerplant in 77 days and get it running within 9 hours... in an ice cave, in Greenland? If the people who did that could see us now, they'd insult our manhoods.

      That's true. On the other hand, let them behold the power that the regulators and bureaucrats have achieved in the last 50 years and they would despair.

      - - -
      Killing Owls to Save Owls [nationalreview.com]
      Environmentalists against the Environment [nationalreview.com]

    • by Tore S B (711705)
      We still can, but by now we've realized that this is a bad idea. Quote TFA:

      During the reactors operational life, a total of 47,078 gallons of radioactive liquid waste was discharged into the icecap.

  • by burne (686114) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:29AM (#39619211)

    Pity it's a copy/paste-job from another site, and at least a year and a half old: http://gombessa.tripod.com/scienceleadstheway/id9.html [tripod.com]

  • by cheesecake23 (1110663) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:37AM (#39619277)

    Project Iceworm - America's secret cold war plan to build a network of underground missile bases under the Greenland ice cap

    Now I know.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:39AM (#39619313)

    "project would cover an area of 52,000 square miles"

    Hardly, since the bases were supposed to be spread apart by 4 miles or so. Perhaps the total would be spread out over 52,000 square miles, but surely it wouldn't actually cover anything like 52,000 square miles.

    • "Thousands of launch points, hundreds of missiles."

      It would take about 3000 equally spaced launch points to cover that area. Ambitious, sure. Cheaper than the Normandy invasion? Definitely.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It was so secret that they sponsored a contest with the Boy Scouts to spend "summer camp" under the ice. One scout from the U.S. and one from Denmark (Greenland is Danish).
    gombessa.tripod.com/scienceleadstheway/id9.html

  • Camp Century appears to have been very similar to the original South Pole Station built in 1956-1957 for the IGY by the US Navy, minus the nuclear reactor and the plan for the Dr. Strangelove missile complex.

    The Navy did install a small nuclear reactor at McMurdo Station, which leaked, requiring a large chunk of the hill that it was located on to be excavated and hauled away for disposal.

    • The Navy did install a small nuclear reactor at McMurdo Station, which leaked, requiring a large chunk of the hill that it was located on to be excavated and hauled away for disposal.

      O.K. so, McMurdo is prime real-estate, and the disposal site is....?

      If you asked the anglerfish, they would have preferred you make the Penguins grow little glowing balls on stalks, instead.

  • Would the US government need to go to an ATM machine and input a PIN number in order to withdraw money to pay for its ICBM missiles?

  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:22PM (#39619773)

    So... Denmark was cool with that?

    • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:40PM (#39619995)

      Late 1950s... Denmark was about as politically relevant to the U.S. as the Netherlands were to Hitler.

    • by Formalin (1945560)

      The people weren't. The government was complicit with the US plans though.

      Greenland (via Denmark) has been a nuclear free zone since the 50's.

      When a nuke-loaded B-52 crashed at Thule AFB (Greenland) in the late 60's, there was a shit-storm. The US said it was a one time diversion, etc...

      In the 90's the truth came out about the above crash, about how armed B52's were there regularly, there were warhead stocks there, etc, and there was a pretty big shitstorm about it.

      wiki [wikipedia.org]

  • Stuck North of the Arctic Circle for a night that lasts 6 months with Rock Hudson. No thanks.

  • http://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/55000/55167/earth_lights_lrg.jpg [nasa.gov]

    Anyone ever notice the really bright spot on the norther coast of Alaska? The big swath north of Anchorage, out by Prudhoe Bay...
  • I would be the tenth person or so, if I pointed out that the summary author basically wrote "the tunnels will disappear in the coming years" while the article reads along the lines of "the tunnels disappeared in the years immediately following their creation".

    But that's not what's important.

    What's important, is that if the ice had NOT reclaimed the tunnels, they would still BE there.

    Or, wait, that's actually not important. Well... there's radioactive ice, that's pretty cool.

  • Now we have time to build our secret moon base. Yesterday you would have told me we didn't have secret missile silos under Greenland.

  • "During the reactors operational life, a total of 47,078 gallons of radioactive liquid waste was discharged into the icecap."

    Why is it that tax-payer money and radioactive/toxic waste always seem to be dumped in the same place?

  • The time frame is a little off I. I was born in Feb. 1959-and he had been working there for 18 months when i was born-and stuff had been going on there a while. My father was a pipefitting foreman for Peter Kiewit and sons-one of the civilian construction/maintenance contractors.

    I've met several other people that were there. I think there was more than one nuclear plant(i.e. they had some redundancy).

    The security around this all was pretty serious. The construction workers often had know idea what they we

  • The USA almost started the Third World War when the Soviet were silently planting missiles in Cuba, and the western media universally depicted the Soviet as evil rogues for doing that, yet it's now evident that the USA had been doing the same thing for decades.

Whoever dies with the most toys wins.

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