March 2018

Project Chariot, Cape Thompson

See more pictures of Cape Thompson here:

Cape Thompson is a promontory on the Chukchi Sea coast, about 26 miles (42 km) southeast of Point Hope, on the Arctic Slope of Alaska. This cape was first discovered by Russians in the late 18th century and was named "Cape Rikord," for Peter Ivanovich Rikord, the Governor of Kamchatka in 1817-1822. The cape was named by Captain Frederick William Beechey in 1886 for Deas Thomson, one of the commissioners of the Royal Navy. Beechey spelled the name "Thompson" on his chart, a form that has been copied by succeeding cartographers. An early native name for the cape was "Uivaq”.

Project Chariot was a 1958 U.S. Atomic Energy Commission proposal to construct an artificial harbor at Cape Thompson on the Chukchi Sea by burying and detonating a series of nuclear devices. The plan was championed by Edward Teller, who traveled throughout the state touting the harbor as an important economic development. Alaskan political leaders, newspaper editors, the state university's president, even church groups all rallied in support of the massive detonation. Opposition came from the tiny Inupiat village of Point Hope and a few scientists.

Although the detonation never occurred, the site was radioactively contaminated by an experiment to estimate the effect of radioactive debris on water sources. Radioactive material from a nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site was transported to the Chariot site in August 1962, then used in several experiments and buried. Thirty years later, the disposal was discovered in archival documents by a University of Alaska researcher. Read more here and here. Click here to download the CoastView app and explore the Project Chariot site.

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