Because Sondrestrom is inside the Arctic Circle, and because of its unique location, almost everything, including the people stationed here, receives special attention.
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Background: Because Sondrestrom is inside the Arctic Circle, and because of its unique location, almost everything, including the people stationed here, receives special attention.
WEATHER CONDITIONS: Foehn winds, similar to the warm Chinook winds in the Rocky Mountain area, sometimes create almost unbelievably warm temperatures, even though the base is only a few miles from the Greenland ice cap. Temperatures in the earlier months of each year may change from -40 degrees F. to 40 degrees F. almost overnight. This unusual phenomenon has earned the base the title of "Miami of the North".
The warm weather during Sondrestrom's some two and one-half months of "summer" sends torrents of water from the melting ice cap down Watson River into Sondrestromfjord. The water flows so fast that it may take only one and one-half hours to make the trip from the glacier to the fjord, over ten miles.
PERMAFROST: The permafrost in the Sondrestrom area begins about two to three feet below the earth's surface.
Unusual looking ventilators protrude from the foundations of newer buildings. These vents connect with air spaces beneath the floors of the structures, and by permitting the free circulation of air under the buildings, they prevent the warmth and weight of the structure from melting the permafrost. If the permafrost were to melt in some sections, portions of the buildings would shift and sink, eventually ruining the structures.
Still other buildings have refrigeration and air conditioning units under certain sections to keep the ground cool and prevent the permafrost from melting. Such is the case with the old Bachelor Officers' Quarters, which is believed to be the first permanent concrete structure built in Greenland, especially above the Arctic Circle.
Surface roadways and the airfield ramp are painted white in certain areas to cut down the heat absorption by the dark asphalt and thereby preventing the permafrost from melting and the consequent sinking of the road.
PORT LLOYD: The Sondrestrom port is located nine miles from the air base. The majority of the supplies for the base, including meat and oil products, come into the port during the shipping season from July to September. From 12 to 18 ships can usually be expected to arrive from the United States and European countries during this time.
Oil products, some of which are transferred to the ice cap DYE sites, are store and pumped to the base through a nine-mile pipeline. All "dry" material is transported from the port to the base by flat-bed trailers over a nine-mile paved road, the longest paved road in all of Greenland.
Approximately 250 officers and men of the Army Transportation Corps come to Sondrestrom to operate the port facilities during the three-month supply season.
DEW LINE EAST...AMERICA'S FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE
Sondrestrom is part of the 26th Air Division of the Air Defence Command, located approximately 65 miles above the Arctic Circle. The primary mission of the base is to give logistical and administrative support to the distant early warning line's eastern extension (DEW Line, East), which links Greenland with the Canadian DEW line.
Supported from Sondrestrom are four distant early warning sites (radar sites) named DYE-1, DYE-2, DYE-3 and DYE-4. DYE-1 is on a hill about 90 nautical miles from the base off Greenland's west coast. DYE-2 and DYE-3 are both located on the 700,000-square-mile Greenland ice cap, about 120 and 280 nautical miles, respectively, from Sondrestrom. DYE-4 is on an island just off the east coast of Greenland.
The composite buildings at each of the ice cap sites are almost identical. Each station has a two-story--plus--composite building, a sled-mounted survival building and three sled-mounted vehicle storage structures.
The fuel that is used to operate the sites is flown in from Sondrestrom and stored in 100,000-gallon tanks buried under the snow.
The undersides of the composite buildings are elevated 19 feet above the snow's surface on eight pairs of columns to minimize the buildup of snowdrifts. Attached to each column are two 350-ton hydraulic jacks that enable the entire structure to be raised and leveled to account for the snow accumulation, which is usually about three feet per year.
The composite buildings rest on footings of structural steel placed on timber mates 31.5 feet under the snow's surface. Each footing is designed to withstand pressures of 4,000 pounds per square foot, which is only approached under the full wind load of 150 m.p.h.
Using DYE-3 as an example, the temperatures at the sites range from -70 degrees F. To as high as 55 degrees F. Winds have been recorded as high as 82 knots.
Surveillance and communications are the major activities at the distant early warning sites. Facilities necessary for the detection and reporting, via voice and teletype, of information received from radar and other equipment are located in the main radar room. The surveillance and communications equipment is operated by radicians (electronic techniques) who are trained and through sequential rotating shifts, they maintain an extremely high degree of ability and efficiency in console operations.
All the distant early warning sites that make up the DEW Line, East, are operated, maintained and manned by the Electric Corporation (FEDCO).
THE GREENLAND ICE CAP
Like outer space, the Greenland ice cap is among the most mysterious phenomenon in the world.
The ice cap covers about nine-tenths of the hugh island, some 700,000 square miles. It ranges in thickness from about 200 feet at places near its outer edge to about 12,000 feet. The altitude at the ice cap's surface in places reaches 10,000 feet above sea level.
The tremendous pressure caused by the weight of the snow and ice and movement of the cap causes giant crevasses and pressure folds that could engulf whole houses--if houses existed on the cap.
Whether the ice cap is moving, growing or shrinking is a subject of much controversy and study. For the past several years glaciological teams have been searching for the answers. One team, from Ohio University, hopes to correlate the weather on and around the ice cap with the changing atmospheric conditions in the Northern Hemisphere. Scientist have come to the conclusion though that if the cap were to melt the level of all the world's oceans would be raised some 30 feet.
In most places, only a small ring of rocky, mountainous land separates the cap from water-- or ice, depending on the area and season. At one point, not far from Sondrestrom, a glacier-like tongue of ice extends all the way to the Davis Strait. It is this tongue of ice that dumps millions of pounds of ice into the strait, menacing shipping traffic as far south as the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean.
Temperatures on the cap may drop to as low as -70 degrees F. In the summer the mercury may climb to 50 degrees F.
For the most part; the ice cap is uninhabited. Greenlanders occasionally venture onto it when traveling, but only for relatively short periods of time. About the only other exceptions are the Electric Corporation employees who operate the distant early warning sites on the cap, DYE-2 and DYE-3.
A view from an aircraft over the ice cap approximately a half-hours flight from Sondrestrom shows nothing but ice and snow as far as the eye can see. The distant early warning sites appear as dots on a sea of white.