Military radar installation decaying in AK: photoset

BoingBoing reader Ezekiel Tenhoff says,

I just made a photoset of a derelict White Alice / DEWline military radar installation I visited about a month ago out in remote western Alaska. The Distance Early Warning system (or DEWline for short) was built during the Cold War for the purpose of 'hearing' soviet airplanes as they approched. The government spent untold hundreds of millions of dollars on these installations back in the sixties and seventies and i'm unable to find a single picture of one anywhere on the internet. (…)

The photos from inside the facility look bright and illuminated but that's just camera flash. They were pitch black, and infested with caribou. It was a classic videogame scenario: naively exploring a derelict radioactive military facility in the middle of nowhere full of rusting filthy machinery with low-battery flashlight. Fun stuff.


Reader comment:

Lloyd says,

Despite the fact that these sites were massive radio transmitters, they are not radio-active. They were powered by diesel generators. There was nothing "Atomic" about them other than they were designed to warn of an attack over the pole by Soviet aircraft. There is a huge amount of information reguarding the amount of money the US and Canada spent on these facilities. One of the best: Link.

Ryan says,

I live in Nome, also on the Seward Penninsula, and the skyline above town is dominated by the shells of a White Alice radar site, inevitably known as "nomehenge". The Air Force came in and cleared out the site and wanted to tear down the shells, but met strident opposition from local residents. The radars are so large they are the most visible landmark in the area, and have guided many a lost traveler back to town over the years. So all that money really did save some lives. Unintentionally.

John says,

From what I can find, this location was not a DEW site, nor are there any radars. This location was part of the White Alice Communication System which used microwave transmitters to provide communications between DEW sites and other facilites.

I found this document which gives a brief history, a map, and the toxic substances found at the site: PDF Link.

Jan says,

I loved the story about the abandoned Radar Station in Alaska. Ecspecially the part were Ezekiel mentioned that the setting reminded him of some videogame was nice. Because that is what they have been using our abandoned radar station for. It is a huge site situated on top of an artificial hill made from rubble from WWII called Teufelsberg (Devil's Hill), not far from the city center. Although it is in decay since the early 90's, it is strictly guarded. Pretty much one of the only occasions to visit this site was the premiere for the first part of the movie Resident Evil. People told me afterwards the party wasn't to successfull, but everybody agreed that the location was stunning.
Chaos Computer Club has a website with nice pictures of the station and a bit of its history.

Jeffery says,

This site has lots of photos of all sorts of different abandoned missile bases, mines, sawmills, bunkers, gold drenches and stuff like that in Alaska.

M Pamela Bumsted

We have a White Alice, too, (Yukon Kuskokwim Delta) also used for navigation by fishers, pilots, snowmachines, etc. maybe even for NZ godwit bringing the first bird flu (or not) DEW line sites tend to look like small, one-story shacks: Link.
My Dad was a programmer for the SAC and SAGE systems, which linked the DEW line with the B-52s

Morris Kurt says,

I saw this photo set and was pretty stoked because I work for a contractor that handles EPA Superfund Records in the Region X (which includes sites in Alaska) offices in Seattle and some of those records are for DEWline sites. I'd actually never seen what one of them looked like, so it was good to get an idea. While none of the sites are "radioactive" as one person suggested, there are at least five of them that are on the EPA's CERCLIS (Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Information System) database. While this does not necessarily mean that they are Superfund sites per se (although that can always change), they have at some point been reported to the EPA (usually by a governmental agency) as potentially hazardous. This could be because of something as simple as extra barrels of diesel fuel laying around and no one is sure how to dispose of them or something much more complex like buildings containing asbestos that are now falling apart after years of not being used. So for those wanting to explore a DEWline site, I would suggest that they be careful which one they go to (hopefully the dangerous ones would have restricted access anyway) and to check the CERCLIS database beforehand. Anyone who is really curious can always get more information about these sites through the FOIA process too.