Friday, January 28, 2011

Camp Century, a city in a glacier

In 1959, the US Army Corp of Engineers built Camp Century into glaciers in the far north of Greenland.  To do this, they dug broad trenches into the snow, put a corrugated iron roof over the top, and then covered that with snow for insulation.  Inside the trenches they could then build shelters or facilities for their work.

Camp Century during construction.  Both photos via Frank Leskovitch.

Map of the facility.  Again, via Frank Leskovitch.

It was a nuclear-powered research centre, with a particular focus on deep-core ice drilling.  They were the first to the bottom of the Greenland ice-sheet, reaching 4550 feet in 1961, and when you’re drilling so far below the ice, who’s to say what you will find?

Power came from a portable nuclear reactor (which sounds like something from Back To The Future), which was still part of an experiment.  Only eight were produced, and the Army’s nuclear power program was abandoned a few years later.

The portable reactor.

If a nuclear powered research centre in a glacier isn’t exciting enough, Camp Century was partly a proof-of-concept for Project Iceworm – a plan to develop a series of nuclear missile facilities under the arctic ice-sheet.  And then, to cap it off, in 1960 a pair of boy scouts were given the chance to be “Junior Scientific Aides” at the camp, spending five months living there (October – February, right through winter).

This would make an awesome setting for a golden era Doctor Who game (of course, transposing it be the British military) or an atomic era Cthulhu.  Combining the Greenland ice-sheet in winter with nuclear power and weapons does sound like a marriage of Pagan Publishing’s Walker in the Wastes with Pelgrane Press’s Castle Bravo.

Isolated in the arctic circle, have they accidentally disturbed something?  Or could it be that this is part of some plan to release something on the world?  Have a pair of boy-scouts been invited to this unlikely situation to provide sacrificial innocents (virgins being hard to find among the service men)?

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