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Project Iceworm

Summary: The U.S. constructed underground tunnels in Greenland to store nukes, but "moving" ice thwarted the plans.

In 1960, the United States built what they called “Camp Century,” a facility composed of a planned 2,500 miles of tunnels deep into the Arctic ice, near the Thule Air Base in Greenland. The U.S. told Denmark’s government, who had power in Greenland, that they intended to perform a variety of tests and experiments in the worm-like tunnels to assess their results in such extreme conditions.

In reality, the facility was key to the American government’s “Project Iceworm,” in which the U.S. intended to store nuclear missiles for use against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Greenland was far closer to their global opponent than any American soil, making it an ideal location for the United States to launch future missiles, and a mission of scientific advancement was the perfect cover. Concealed miles beneath the guise of a sanctioned research complex, both Denmark and the Soviet Union would be none the wiser to the American weaponry.

Project Iceworm did not last long, however. Builders did not expect the ice sheet upon which it was built to be so "elastic," and the movement of the surrounding ice began to seriously compromise the structural integrity of the tunnel system. In 1967, the United States government deserted the facility and hoped it would be buried or destroyed over time by ice and glaciers. Climate change has other plans: researchers suspect the failed project (and possibly its radioactive waste) will be uncovered as Arctic ice continues to melt at rising rates in the coming decades.

Project Iceworm was unveiled to the American public when a Danish Parliament investigation published documents about the secret project in 1997.

Sources & Further Reading

Atlas Obscura. “Camp Century (Project Iceworm).” September 2, 2016. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/camp-century.

Written and researched by Jack Gassen. Posted April 2022.