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Penises, the Cold War, and film stars

Our trip to Nome, Alaska could not be complete without a trip to the top of Anvil Mountain to see White Alice. On a clear day, towering above Nome you can see several creepy towers that remind me of the fins on the alien spacecraft that parked on the ocean flow in the movie, The Abyss.

Image of the spaceship from The Abyss

Towers jut out from spaceship like “fins” in the movie The Abyss.
https://johnkennethmuir.wordpress.com/2011/page/18/

Image of the spaceship from The Abyss

Fins on ship. Photo from http://www.cracked.com/article_19386_5-classic-movies-that-almost-had-terrible-endings.html

Image of the spaceship from The Abyss

Towering Penis. Photo from http://mcrawford76.hubpages.com/hub/Top-10-Great-Movies-With-Terrible-Endings#

Okay, now that I look at the pictures of the spaceship, I want to take that back. The fins on the ship look more penis-like. White Alice isn’t penis-like:

Image of White Alice on Anvil Mountain

White Alice on Anvil Mountain. This photo was taken by TVJ, http://www.panoramio.com/user/4419664?with_photo_id=53096220

What, you ask, is White Alice?

Image of White Alice as seen near Nome, AK.

White Alice as seen near Nome, AK.

White Alice Communications System was a telecommunications system the government put up in Alaska when we were sure the Russians were going to come and get us (otherwise known as the Cold War). At the time, it was the most advanced technology available, so the DOD set forth to spend tons of money constructing 80 stations that formed a network which would allow folks in remote places to communicate,”The Russians are coming!” Funny thing is, you really can’t see Russia that well from Alaska – no matter what politicians say. These sites were characterized by large parabolic, troposphere scatter antennas as well as smaller microwave dishes for point to point links.

Image of four large metal antennas

Four antennae still stand above Nome. The side panels have all been removed (Compare them to the shot with the Northern Lights in the sky posted above).

The system was supposed to be a reliable form of communication to very remote areas. Even in the 1960s, a long distance call from Anchorage to the Lower 48 would require residents to go to one location downtown to place a call. These structures were going to vastly improve our communications.

Image of Michael standing next to a very large metal antenna

The structures are very large: Michael is sitting in the Jeep parked to the right.

Construction began in 1955, and the system was dedicated in 1958. In the end, 71 of these facilities were constructed all over Alaska. They were deactivated in the late 70s – becoming obsolete technology because of satellite communications. Gee… I wonder how much the government spent on something used less than the lifetime of most of the cars I have owned in my life. I know my Chevrolet Avalanche cost me $40,000 in 2002 and it is still running. I think I got a better deal on my truck.

Today, many of these 71 sites have become listed as contaminated sites, now managed by Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation because of PCB usage and fuel leakage from storage tanks. It is likely the cost to clean up some of these sites far exceeds the cost of construction. How much was the price tag for this project that was only used for 20 years and now requires clean up? $300 million! Initial estimates were $30 million, but the contractor underestimated the maintenance cost (surprise). Perhaps a White Alice site is analogous to a penis: we keep getting fucked. I realize now that I am beginning to sound like Galena Goldstone (a.k.a Jaz) – perhaps I should stop hanging out with her?

Where are these sites in Alaska?
Image of a map of Alaska showing all of the sites in Alaska.

Oh where oh where might Alice be? Map from http://rammstein.dfmk.hu/~s200/tropo.html#alice

One such sites is easily accessible in Nome, so you can bet I wanted to go check out the place. Older photos I have seen of the site still show it with the side panels on the large antennae, and like I said, they are really creepy and big. We drove up the mountain and found that although the site had been fenced off, someone had ripped off all the gates and dropped the fencing on both sides, making it easily accessible. Now I did think for one minute about my track record and cops, but luckily no one was around this time and I was able to see the site and take a few photos. Unfortunately, all the panels have now been removed and it’s not as creepy as it used to be. Bummer.

Finally, what does this entire top secret Russian-driven communication have to do with film stars? It was rumored that the system would have been named Alice White had there not been an actress with that name at the time.Thus it was reversed to White Alice.
Black and white image of Alice White

Alice White – American Film Star. Photo from: Vintage Threads
http://vintagethreadsuk.blogspot.com/2011/08/vintage-threads-style-icon-alice-white.html

“Creepy” Outhouses
Kougarok Highway
About Maya

My name is Maya, and I wander.

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