1946 Operation Nanook, the radio and weather station.
This is a personal story from Johannes Lomholt, mailed to me on August 13. 2005
Under the project name "Operation Nanook" a combined Danish - American radio and weather station was established in the summer of 1946 at the Pituffik near Thule in the Northstar Bay.
Today it is transformed into the Thule Air Base and is guarding the northern hemisphere against missile attacks.
The local name of Pituffik can be translated to the place where the Eskimos "tie their dogs" in the summer time.
By all rights, Thule Air Base should have been named Pituffik Air Base after the original site.During the summer of 1946 a lot of activities took place on the American east coast.After "Operation Nanook" was approved in U.S.A.
A lot of ships were selected to participate in "Operation Nanook".
The nucleus of the "Nanook" force, Task Force (TF) 68 consisted of Norton Sound (AV-11), Atule (SS-403), Northwind (WAGB- 282), Alcona (AK-157), Beltrami (IX-162) and Whitewood.
On 3rd July, Whitewood departed Boston to rendezvous with Northwind off Greenland.For the remainder of July and into August,
Whitewood operated in the Canadian Arctic, off western Greenland.
She transited the Davis Strait to the northern part of Baffin Bay in company with Northwind and Atule and conducted exercises en route.
All ships in TF 68 except the two AK''s eventually rendezvoused at Melville Bight, Bairn Bay, on 2o July, Whitewood and Atule subsequently accompanied Norton Sound to Thule harbour to recover a PBM Mariner forced down with engine trouble.
From 22 July to 5 August, all activities in "Nanook" cantered around Thule; Norton Sound remained at anchor there, in North Star Bay, servicing her two PBM''s, meanwhile, Whitewood and Atule operated from North Star Bay as they conducted exercises and tests in the Smith Sound-Kane Basin area.
On 5 August, Norton Sound and Whitewood headed for Dundas Harbour, Devon Island, to attempt air and surface operations there.
Unfortunately the ships found the harbour iced oved, with a belt of pack ice extending out three miles down the coast.
Northwind later joined the two ships in the vicinity of Dundas Harbour, searching for a suitable anchorage that could accommodate the ships and their attached aircraft.
Whitewood succeeded in finding a small, ice-free anchorage at Tay Ray, off north western Bylot Island.As the Arctic weather deteriorated to the point where it hindered Whitewood''s surveying efforts -- especially her terrestrial fixes she was released from the expedition and received her sailing orders on 6 September and soon set her course for Boston.
Norton Sound arrived in Thule with personnel and materials for building a radio and weather station to complete the chain of weather stations so much needed in Greenland.
Following the US Navy build a new and larger weather station than the previous situated in the Dundas village.
The Army Corps of Engineers built a 4000-foot airstrip on the south side of the gletscher valley, and several wooden barracks were build on the barren ground of Pituffik to accomodate the personnel and the technical equipment used for radio and weather observations.
Beside maintaining the weather observations and radio communication, the Pituffik station also served as base for B-17''s and C-47''s and C-54''s.
The B-17''s performed photo mapping, the C-47 was flying supplies to another weather station to be established at Eureka Sound, Ellismere Land in Canada in the summer of 1947, and the C-54 was a steady and reliable supplier of provisions and necessary equipment and spare parts for the station.
At Christmas time the pilot, Joe E. Cavnar, brought two Christmas trees for the Danish and American crews.
During the years several weather stations were build in the Northern Territories of Canada, such as Eureka, Alert, and Resolute and Isachsen, and at Cape Morris Jessup at the extreme northern point of Greenland.
From 1948 - 50 some houses, a power plant, and a radio station was build at the so called Dundas Village at North Star Bay, at Qaanaaq, about a hundred kilometres north of Thule,
Another village was build for the Eskimos who were transferred to this locations due to noise and impairment of the catch of seals and walruses.
The Inuit Village of Qaanaaq is protected by Denmark and especially excluded from areas under US Air Force control, as are all base areas under control of US Air Force.
In 1963 the Pituffik area was given official status as the 17th municipality of Greenland, the Thule municipality, the northernmost community in the world.