Nuclear Standoff

The Arctic Transformed

the Arctic 1977.0817

Nuclear Standoff

Cold War in the Arctic, Climate Change (17 August 1977)

Historical Map of the Arctic & the Far North

In 1949, the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear device, leading to an arms and technology race with the US. In the middle of this confrontation was the once remote Arctic, providing the shortest route between the two superpowers, first for bombers and then ICBMs. Nor did the Arctic remain a complete barrier to shipping as new nuclear submarines began to travel freely under the ice.

Main Events

RDS-1

In its first nuclear weapon test, the Soviet Union detonated RDS-1 - code-named Joe-1 by the United States - on 29 August 1949 at 7:00 am at Semipalatinsk, Kazakh SSR. Radioactive fission products from the test were detected by the US Air Force, prompting US President Truman to notify the world of the situation the following month. The test surprised the Western powers, who had estimated that the Soviets would not be able to build an atomic bomb until 1953-1954.

Greenland Treaty in effect

The United States-Denmark treaty on Greenland became effective, allowing for the joint use of facilities in Greenland in defense of the NATO-designated Greenland Defense Area and giving the US rights to begin secret construction of Thule Air Base. 12,000 men and 300,000 tons of cargo were deposited in Thule the following day to begin work on the new base, which was finally completed in 1953.

High Arctic relocation

In an effort to populate the High Arctic, the Government of Canada forcibly transported seven or eight Inuit families from Port Harrison (Inukjuak), Quebec, and three families from Pond Inlet, Northwest Territories, to Grise Fiord, Ellesmere Island, and Resolute Bay, Cornwallis Island. Moved about 2,000 km to a harsher environment and left with insufficient supplies, the families ultimately learned to survive in their new home.

Warsaw Pact

The Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania signed the Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation, and Mutual Assistance - later known as the Warsaw Pact - in Warsaw, Poland. The pact was created in reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO.

Operation Sunshine

On 9 June 1958, the United States Navy's USS Nautilus (SSN-571) - the world's first operational nuclear-powered submarine - departed Seattle, heading for the Arctic in Operation Sunshine. After being diverted to Pearl Harbor due to bad ice conditions, she submerged in the Barrow Sea north of Alaska on 1 August, becoming the first vessel to complete a submerged transit to the North Pole two days later. From here she continued on to northeast Greenland, where she resurfaced a few days later.

State of Alaska

On 7 July 1958, United States President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act. In accordance with this act, the Territory of Alaska was admitted to the Union as the 49th state - the State of Alaska - on 3 January 1959.

Greenland joins EC

Denmark joined the European Communities, thereby bringing its dependency, Greenland, into the Communities as well.

Arktika reaches North Pole

Departing from Murmansk on 9 August 1977, the Soviet nuclear-powered icebreaker NS Arktika became the first surface ship to reach the North Pole on 17 August. After spending fifteen hours at the pole conducting research, Arktika returned to Murmansk in an arc east of Franz Josef Land.

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