This was the Army's 2nd Ice cap facility.
So named because it was 100 trail miles out on the ice cap, or 138-150 miles from Thule, and an entire city built beneath the snow for 85-200 residents.
It was located in a 6200 feet high area where winds up to 125 mph and temperatures as low as minus 70F had been recorded.
The camp was opened in 1959 and was officially operated by the Army Polar Research and Development Center from Fort Belvoir.
The Snow, Ice and Permafrost Research Establishment (SIPRE) played an important part in its construction and operation until the experiment was discontinued in 1966. (in 1960 SIPRE became part of the Army's Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory or CRREL)
From Thule Air Base, via Camp Tuto, persons took a 3 mile road up the ramps to the ice cap and then went by light (pole cats) or heavy "swings" down the "tractor trail, past Blue Ice Valley and Camp Fist Clench (or Site 2).
These 10-20 ton sleds crept along at 2 miles an hour for the 70 hour travel.
The light swings carried 6 men and took less time to travel to the camp.
The Arctic Engineer Task Force conducted experiments in storage and living conditions and the Army's Transportation Corps conducted frequent experiments with transportation and special Arctic vehicles.
Camp Century was housed in a network of 21 cut and cover trenches that were constructed with Swiss snow millers (called Peter Plows.)
Within the tunnels were placed 30 prefabricated plywood buildings that contained
- Research labs
- Dormitories (60-125 sq. ft./person)
- Mess hall (3200 sq. ft.)
- Food storage (700 sq. ft. warm, 1920 sq. ft. cold)
- Shop space of 4080 sq. ft. for vehicles, utilities and communications
- Nuclear reactor for heat and power (400 tons of piping was used to support the reactor.)
- Chapel (in the theater)
- Barber shop
- Exchange (500 sq. ft.)
- Library (672 sq. ft.)
- Theater (608 sq. ft.)
- Clubs (2272 sq. ft.)
- Laundry (450 sq. ft.)
- Miscellaneous space (144 sq. ft.)
It had all the conveniences such as, electricity, shower, and kitchens.
The largest of the tunnels was known as "Main Street", was 1100 feet long, 26 feet wide and 28 feet high.
To prevent melting of the tunnel walls, a large air well was drilled 40 feet below the floor of each tunnel and cool air was drawn upward to maintain the tunnels at about 20F.
The buildings were placed 3 feet above the tunnel floors and 4 feet from the walls to prevent heat flow to the snow from the structures, which maintained indoor temperatures of 70F.
Water was obtained from a well in the snow into which steam was injected.
Research at Camp Century included studies of the structural properties of snow and its use in construction, development of transportation equipment, meteorological studies and ice core studies.
It was from a tunnel in Camp Century that a CRREL drill team first reached the bottom of the Greenland Ice Sheet in 1966 at a depth of over 4,550ft.
In order to penetrate the ice sheet a CRREL research team drilling from one of the covered trenches made two unsuccessful attempts with a thermal drill, which melted the glacial ice.
On the third attempt they substituted an electromechanical drill at 1,755 feet to complete the project .
The project, which had taken nearly three years to complete, was a significant technical accomplishment because of the difficulty of drilling through the shifting and flowing glacial ice cap.
It was a major scientific accomplishment because continuous cores representing more than 120,000 years of climatic history were available for the first time.
Since these cores contained dirt particles and air pockets, which had been incorporated into the glacial ice as it formed from the falling snow, scientists at CRREL and other labs throughout the world, were able to reconstruct the climate for a period of time extending far beyond the recent Ice Age. Camp Century was closed in 1967 due to unexpected rapid flow and movement of the glacial ice.
It is not known how much of the camp was abandoned as twisted wreckage and how much was salvaged, but the nuclear reactor, which powered the camp, was successfully removed and shipped out of the country.