Open main menu

Camp Century was an Arctic United States military scientific research base in Greenland.[1] It is situated 150 miles east of Thule Air Base. It was built and publicly promoted as being a base for scientific research, but decades later the facts were discovered that in actuality that was the cover story for Project Iceworm to install sites for launching nuclear missiles in Greenland, a project which was kept secret even from the host nation of Denmark. Powered by a nuclear reactor, the camp operated from 1959 until 1967. The base consisted of 21 tunnels with a total length of 9,800 feet (3.0 km). Project Iceworm was aborted after it was realized that the ice sheet was not as stable as originally assessed, and that the missile basing concept would not be feasible. So Camp Century was abandoned, and the reactor removed. However, many tons of toxic waste remain buried under the ice and continue to be an environmental concern, particularly with the general trend of ice mass decreasing and the possibility that these materials will eventually get exposed to the surface.

Camp Century
Part of Project Iceworm
Near Qaanaaq in Greenland
Camp Century layout plan.png
Plan of base
Camp Century is located in Greenland
Camp Century
Camp Century
Site information
OwnerUnited States Army
Site history
In use1959–1967 (1967)


Construction on the camp and the sub-glacial nuclear reactor began without explicit permission from the government of Denmark, leading to a political dilemma for Prime Minister H. C. Hansen.[2]

Cleanup effortsEdit

In 2016, a group of scientists evaluated the environmental impact and estimated that due to changing weather patterns over the next few decades, melt water could release the nuclear waste, 20,000 liters of chemical waste and 24 million liters of untreated sewage into the environment. However, so far neither US or Denmark has taken responsibility for the clean-up.[3]

Scientific researchEdit

Ice core samples from Camp Century were used to create stable isotopes analyses used to develop climate models.[4][5][6]

Further readingEdit

  • Colgan, Liam; Machguth, Horst; MacFerrin, Mike; Colgan, Jeff D.; van As, Dirk; MacGregor, Joseph A. (16 August 2016) [4 August 2016]. "The abandoned ice sheet base at Camp Century, Greenland, in a warming climate". Geophysical Research Letters. 43 (15): 8091–8096. doi:10.1002/2016GL069688. The original news story.
  • Rosen, Julia (16 August 2016). "Mysterious, Ice-Buried Cold War Military Base May Be Unearthed by Climate Change". Science. doi:10.1126/science.aag0726. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  • Sima Sahar Zerehi (5 August 2016). "Climate change could expose Cold War–era Arctic military base". CBC News. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  • Doyle, Alister (17 October 2016). "Greenland calls for clean-up of toxic U.S. Cold War bases". Reuters. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  • 1963 documentary about building the camp, narrated by the project manager for the U.S. War Office on YouTube
  • Thule Air Base/Camp Century information


  1. ^ Reed, John (April 6, 2012). "Inside the Army's Secret Cold War Ice Base". DefenseTech. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  2. ^ Nielsen, Kristian Hvidtfelt (December 19, 2017). "How the US built a mysterious military camp under the Greenland ice sheet". Translated by Jex, Catherine. ScienceNordic. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
  3. ^ Laskow, Sarah (2018-02-27). "America's Secret Ice Base Won't Stay Frozen Forever". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2018-12-30.
  4. ^ William Sweet (February 2008). Kicking the Carbon Habit: Global Warming and the Case for Renewable and Nuclear Energy. Columbia University Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-231-13711-9.
  5. ^ Chester C. Langway; Hans Oeschger; W. Dansgaard (1985). Greenland Ice Core: Geophysics, Geochemistry, and the Environment. American Geophysical Union. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-87590-057-5.
  6. ^ Thomas M. Cronin (5 September 1999). Principles of Paleoclimatology. Columbia University Press. p. 415. ISBN 978-0-231-50304-4.

Coordinates: 77°10′00″N 61°08′00″W / 77.1667°N 61.1333°W / 77.1667; -61.1333