Camp Fistclench was the Army's first ice cap facility and had a population of 96-227.

In 1955 Camp Fistclench was constructed 220 miles east of Thule to provide a summer base camp for research and development projects and to test and evaluate methods of ice cap construction. It was very crowded during the summers.

Fistclench consisted of five shallow tunnels cut with the Swiss made Peter snow miller and roofed with either bolted timber bents and sheeting or corrugated steel sections.

After the roof was erected the Peter miller covered it with a layer of milled snow to seal the tunnel from the surface environment.

Jamesway tent structures erected within the undersnow complex provided moderately comfortable living for 75 men.

The camp was occupied during the summers of 1958 and 1959 as a base for additional ice cap research.

The buildings were

  • Quarters (50 to 102 sq. ft. per person)
  • Kitchen (384 sq. ft.)
  • Dining (960 sq. ft.)
  • Exchange (512 sq. ft.)
  • Library
  • Theater (chapel services conducted in the theater)
  • Club
  • Miscellaneous (total of 1024 sq. ft.)



The deep drilling program originated there and heat-treated, compacted snow runways were constructed, on which C-47 and C-124 aircraft made wheel landings.

The camp itself was an instrumented testing ground for construction techniques and illustrated the advantages and disadvantages of subsurface ice camp camps.

The Jamesway structures were not thermally effective.

As the surrounding snow was warmed and new snow accumulated on the roof, the tunnel closed rapidly, the rigid timber roof was subjected to large stresses, and several bents cracked.

The knowledge gained at Camp Fistclench was applied to the design of Camp Century, a nuclear-powered ice cap facility built for year round occupancy.

New info added by Nathan Galbreath

Camp Fistclinch was probably the first "permanent" army camp on the cap, but my unit had camp Hardtop about halfway out to Site 2. It was a stopover on our miserably slow sled train trips out and back. There was also an army camp under the snow beside Site 2 (Butler buildings) where we slept before heading back to Thule. Scientists lived in that camp also, but I don't remember the name.