Article ID: CBB001252176

“The Deepest and Most Rewarding Hole Ever Drilled”: Ice Cores and the Cold War in Greenland (2013)


The recovery of the Camp Century deep ice core in 1966 -- the first ice core to reach all the way through a polar ice sheet to bedrock -- marked a shift from an era of United States military dominated glaciological research in Greenland to an era of climate oriented research on the island. This paper aims to provide an understanding of this shift. I show that the Camp Century ice core was at the heart of a complex blend of environmental, military and scientific interests. By deconstructing these interests, I ultimately show that the island of Greenland underwent two reimaginings during the early Cold War. First, the island was reimagined as part of the US Cold War military sphere: driven by the need to secure the North American continent, the US established a hegemonic military colonization of Greenland. In the second reimagining of the island, environmental geography led the way: the scientific results of the Camp Century ice core and political concern about climatic change converged in the early 1970s to build Greenland into a unique location for pursuing research on climate questions. This paper adds to the literature by contextualizing the Camp Century ice core at the interface between the history of science, environmental history and Cold War history, and thereby illuminating Greenland as a dual geopolitical entity and environmental space. By highlighting the interaction of climatic change, geophysical sciences and national security narratives, it responds to recent historiographic calls to unite a set of narratives which, too often, talk past one another.

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Authors & Contributors
Rohde, Joy
Nielsen, Kristian Hvidtfelt
Nielsen, Henry
Oreskes, Naomi
Krige, John
Beckert, Sven
Social Studies of Science
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences
Journal of American History
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Harvard University
MIT Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Cornell University Press
The MIT Press
Temple University
Cold War
Science and war; science and the military
Science and government
Environmental sciences
Climate and climatology
Science and politics
Oppenheimer, J. Robert
Fowler, William A.
DuBridge, Lee
Sagan, Carl
Thornthwaite,Charles Warren
Time Periods
20th century, late
20th century
21st century
United States
Soviet Union
Polar regions
Arctic regions
Project Vista
California Institute of Technology
International Geophysical Year (IGY)
United States. Army

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