Article ID: CBB001451287

City under the Ice: The Closed World of Camp Century in Cold War Culture (2014)


Located on the beeline between the two nuclear superpowers, Greenland took on vital strategic importance during the early phases of the Cold War. As part of its polar strategy, the USA constructed several bases in Greenland. Camp Century, known as `City under the Ice', was an experimental-military American city built entirely inside the ice sheet in 1959--1960. A 225-person, nuclear-powered army base, Century was the precursor for a much larger installation of intercontinental ballistic missiles (which never materialized), but was also used to project popular images of techno-scientific control, nuclear containment, and American values into Cold War American culture. Applying Paul Edward's closed-world metaphor to photos, film, books, and articles about Camp Century enables us to see both the strengths and the fragility of public discourses about the camp. Century was depicted as an outstanding example of man's never-ceasing quest for knowledge, as the epic conquest of the harsh Arctic environment by US Army engineers, as an Arctic sword and shield against the Soviet aggressor, and as a friendly collaboration between the USA and Denmark (in 1953, the former colony of Greenland became part of the Danish Realm). In the end, Camp Century had to be abandoned due to the glaciological forces of the moving ice sheet which crushed the tunnels, but also due to changes in Cold War politics and the political difficulties underscoring nuclear installations on Danish territory.

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Authors & Contributors
Gordin, Michael D.
Jacobs, Robert Alan
Nielsen, Kristian Hvidtfelt
Nielsen, Henry
Hunner, Jon H.
Greene, Benjamin Patrick
Journal of Cold War Studies
Journal of American Culture
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
International Journal for the History of Engineering and Technology
Technology and Culture
The MIT Press
Columbia University Press
University of Oklahoma Press
Stanford University Press
MIT Press
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Cold War
Science and war; science and the military
Nuclear weapons; atomic weapons
Science and politics
Arms race
Environmental sciences
Truman, Harry S.
Stalin, Joseph
Oppenheimer, J. Robert
Pauling, Linus Carl
Kistiakowsky, George Bogdan
Wiesner, Jerome B.
Time Periods
20th century, late
20th century, early
21st century
United States
Soviet Union
Great Britain
Polar regions
Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory
United States. President's Science Advisory Committee
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
United States. Army

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