Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Texas Towers – off-shore radar stations

NPR’s news blog reported that President Obama gave official recognition to “the 28 men who died when a massive radar tower collapsed in the North Atlantic 50 years ago.”  The radar tower was one of five that sat out in the Atlantic ocean off the north-eastern coast of the USA.  They were a hybrid of a radar station and an offshore oil-rig, which gave them the nickname “Texas Towers”.

Texas Tower 4.  Photo from the office of Sen John Kerry.

The radar stations were needed to extend the warning time that the USA would have in the event that Soviet bombers flew across the Atlantic towards them.  These early-warning stations would give the mainland an extra 30 minutes to respond to an attack.  Improvements in radar technology and the change from bombers to (much faster) ICBMs made the stations obsolete.  Texas Tower 4, however, suffered a disaster prior to this.  In 1960 it was damaged by Hurricane Donna and it collapsed during a winter storm the following year.

This tower had already shown several problems: it was built in much deeper water than the others (180ft deep, where the others were 50-80ft) which meant it needed longer legs, and it’s foundations were in sand rather than rock.  Now it lies below the waves, acting as an artificial reef for scuba divers.

I love the pictures of the old radar tower, with the domes standing over the (rather tall) base.  It sounds like a good starting point for a game - a radar tower out in the ocean, largely cut-off from the rest of the nation, even though they may only be a hundred kilometres away.  Doesn’t this look like it should be visited by Avrocars?  Or that it should be en-route to Camp Century?  Or was there something important left behind on a now collapsed tower?  Could they have detected something out in the sky or sea?

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