Greenland’s rapidly melting ice sheet is on track to expose a Cold War-era United States military base, and the results could be catastrophic. No, that’s not a pitch for a Hollywood science fiction movie, it’s actually happening.
Rising temperatures in Greenland caused by global warming are causing the country’s ice sheet to melt far faster than anyone thought possible, and now the remnants from a bygone area are being exposed to the 21st Century.
A new research study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters has indicated that the U.S. camp in Greenland, known as Camp Century, may include a small amount of nuclear waste. However, what concerns researchers most is that the Greenland base includes over 53,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 63,000 gallons of waste water and sewage, and miscellaneous Cold War-era building materials, all of which will have a detrimental effect on the environment when they are exposed. Greenland’s Camp Century spans over 136 acres of land beneath the rapidly receding ice. According to William Colgan, an assistant professor at the Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering at York University in Toronto, the lead author the revealing study in Greenland, Camp Century – like many other Cold War military bases – the U.S. base never received “proper decommissioning.” Unfortunately, in the wake of the Cold War in the latter half of the 20th Century, the military’s of the world, international industries, and even the scientific community, didn’t think about the lasting impacts of what their constructs and activities would do to the planet.
The most concerning leftover chemical at Camp Century in Greenland (which is located 125 miles from Greenland’s Northwest Coast) is polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly referred to as PCBs. The PCBs that will begin to surface in Greenland as a result of the global warming were commonly used in electrical systems and equipment common to bases like Camp Century. Once exposed, the PCB’s could at the very least affect the nervous systems, endocrine systems, reproductive systems, and immune systems of the animals across Greenland. Additionally, PCBs have been linked with the increased likelihood of cancer occurrence in humans.
Although, according to the research study on Camp Century in Greenland, the melting isn’t on track to begin in earnest for another 75 years, and a complete thaw of the area would take much longer, what concerns scientists is the leakage of chemicals through the ice and into the ground throughout the entire melting process. The melting water will move through the base and into the ground, and eventually out to Greenland’s coast where it will do doubt have a daunting effect on wildlife and possibly humans.
Camp Century was constructed in northwest Greenland in 1959 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Nicknamed by the military “The City Under the Ice,” the entire facility was constructed under 26 feet of ice in a remote area. Housing around 200 soldiers, the area of Greenland was chosen because of its proximity to the Arctic, an advantageous strike position on the Soviet Union. Although the U.S. facility in Greenland was officially labeled as a research station for scientific experiments, it was actually a top secret test facility known as “Project Iceworm.” The idea the U.S. military had was to drill a 2,500-meter long tunnel through the Greenland ice. The tunnel would be capable of housing up to 600 ballistic missiles which would be within range of the Soviet Union. Ultimately, Project Iceworm was a failure. The tunnel was never completed. In the development of the project, however, a one-mile long underground railway was constructed under the Greenland Ice. Camp Century was finally abandoned by the U.S. military in 1967.
[Feature Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images]