Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

America's Secret Underground Ice Fortresses

Comments Filter:
  • 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 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 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 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 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.

"But this one goes to eleven." -- Nigel Tufnel

Working...