In 1959, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a secretive science station deep under the arctic ice sheet of Greenland. The purpose of the base, called Camp Century, was kept under wraps at the time. Luckily for fans of secret military research, we now know its true purpose: building underground launch tunnels for nuclear rockets aimed at the Soviet Union in what became known as “Project Iceworm.”

Since Greenland is one of the closest nations to what was then the Soviet Union, the largely frozen country was perfect for a clandestine launch site for U.S. nuclear warheads. The Soviets were presumably more concerned with defending against airborne ICBMs launched from the U.S., so underground rockets launched from Greenland would be a perfect way to penetrate Soviet defenses and end all life on Earth once and for all, the thinking went. 

One of the entrances to the top-secret Camp Century.

Since that doomsday scenario luckily never happened, the missiles remained safely under ice. When glacial shifts began causing extensive damage to the camp, Project Iceworm was abandoned along with Camp Century. The camp was allowed to freeze over and be entombed into the surrounding glacial landscape - including all of the top-secret wastes and weapons stored within.

Camp Century was abandoned in 1969 when glacial shift damaged much of the underground base.

Now, due to the effects of climate change, Camp Century is in danger of thawing and releasing a potential disaster unto the Earth. According to a new report published in Geophysical Research Letters, the ablation, or evaporation, of the glacial ice could release the wastes stored there. The study's authors predict that Camp Century could be completely thawed within decades:

[...] a transition in ice sheet surface mass balance at Camp Century from net accumulation to net ablation is plausible within the next 75 years, under a business-as-usual anthropogenic emissions scenario [...] Net ablation would guarantee the eventual remobilization of physical, chemical, biological, and radiological wastes abandoned at the site.

These wastes could mix with glacial waters as they melt and seep into underground channels where they could be carried into the Ocean and cause a massive environmental disaster. The fallout from such an incident (literally and figuratively) could cause a potential political nightmare as countries start pointing fingers at one another to assign blame and clean-up responsibilities.

Researchers inspect the frozen structure that is presumably keeping abandoned doomsday weapons safely entombed in ice.

Camp Century was a joint agreement between Denmark (who owned Greenland at the time) and the United States. Since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers abandoned the site, the ownership of the derelict science station is a gray area. As climate change continues to unearth the once-forgotten relics of the Cold War, who knows what further mysteries might soon once again see the light of day. Fingers crossed for a giant monster or two.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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