The «Camp Century» base was developed in 1959 to deploy ballistic missiles within the reach of the USSR. The project was called an «Ice Worm».
According to the Pentagon, it was planned to conduct in Greenland ice sheet a system of 2500 miles long tunnels and deploy about 600 «Iceman» intercontinental ballistic missiles in it, aimed at the USSR. These missiles were supposed to be a modernization of the «Minuteman» missiles (a shortened two-stage version), their flight range was estimated at 3800 miles, while they had to carry a 2.4 megaton warhead in TNT equivalent. The missiles were planned to be placed in tunnels under the ice, while the ice was supposed to protect the missiles from detection and complicate the process of their destruction.
It was planned to lay a network of tunnels that were scooped in an ice shell like trenches, followed by arched ceiling. The tunnels were supposed to interconnect the launch complexes with missiles located at a distance of about 4 miles, with at least one meter of ice above them.
Between the launch complexes, the missiles were supposed to move on special small trains. The tunnels network and launching sites should have been managed from 60 command centers. In total, 11 thousand people were planned to be involved in servicing the complex.
In the process, 21 tunnels with a total length of 3000 m were laid. In the small town under the ice was created all the necessary infrastructure for life and work. There were built presidential houses, kitchens and dining rooms, showers, toilets, lounges, a library, a shop, a theater, a 10-bed hospital, an operating room, a laundry room, a cold warehouse for food, a research laboratory, a communications center, a nuclear power station, an administrative building, and a hairdresser, diesel-electric power plant and water storage tank, there was even their own chapel.
The «Camp Century» military base lasted until 1966, when it became apparent that the «Ice Worm» project was impossible to implement, so the Greenland ice won. Back in 1962, it was discovered that the ice movements on the island significantly exceed the calculated values.
Identified features and reduced funding for the project led to the fact that in 1963 the nuclear reactor was stopped and dismantled, and in 1966 the military completely left the camp. Observation over the camp was still ongoing for several years, until in 1969, ice and snow almost completely consumed all the erected premises. The place was abandoned and the Americans simply left, giving the snow the opportunity to hide their tracks.
The «Ice Worm» project has not been mentioned for decades. For the first time this became known only in 1997 when the Danish Parliament commissioned the Danish Institute for Foreign Policy to study the history of nuclear weapons using in Greenland in connection with the scandal over the plane crash over the American base of Thule, located in the north-west of Greenland.
In 2016, scientists working on the global warming issue found that its consequences led to a thinning of Greenland ice layer, and to a slow melting of those tunnels that were built by the U.S. military. In this regard, melting ice in this area is a threat to the ecology of the island. Radioactive waste that poses the greatest danger may appear on the surface. For a long time, the United States ignored the information that during the implementation of the «Ice Worm» project, there had been produced about 200 tons of radioactive water, which merged right into the ice cap of Greenland. Moreover, at a depth of about 40 m and at an area of a hundred football fields, nine thousand tons of various materials lurk - bunkers, railway rails, tanks with diesel fuel and radioactive coolant, as well as an unknown amount of extremely toxic poly chlorinated biphenyls, which are extremely dangerous for health and the environment.
Undoubtedly, scientists are especially worried about tanks with chemicals buried in tunnels, that naturally accumulate in colder conditions and can penetrate into the most unexpected places. In the Arctic has already been noted the dangerous toxin levels in the indigenous population, which eats seals and whales’ meat.
According to scientists, a decrease in the amount of ice can reach critical values by about 2090, when the negative effects of harmful substances from the «Ice Worm» can no longer be reversed. As for melt water, it will reach the bunkers of the former American base and its dangerous contents much earlier, and then the streams will carry the «American legacy» into the ocean.
Today it may seem that if scientists believe that several more decades will pass before the melting of the ice causes a possible chemical or radiation disaster, then there is still time to clean up the territory. However, the cleaning up process of the base`s heritage can also take quite a long period of time. At the same time, the USA and Denmark have not yet agreed on a work plan. Formally, at present, the base remains the property of the US military, but it is still not clear who exactly should clean up the waste. Both countries refuse to allocate budget funds for a time-consuming project, and also do not take risks for its implementation.
Meanwhile, when the Arctic as a whole, and Greenland in particular, is facing an environmental disaster, the United States, which refuses to cleanse the island of the results of its activities during the Cold War, is again interested in this island. This time, the Americans are trying to raise the issue of buying the largest island in the world, which is of tremendous strategic importance, given its position in the Arctic.