« If your mountain is not at a convenient spot, just send us a postal card »


This page is a direct translation of an article I wrote a while ago, for the ENS Cachan students newspaper (« La Sauce »), in April 2013.

In the 50s, the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory (LRL) was a top-secret american organism, which purpose was to promote the atomic bomb.

At this time, even if this product is improving, and if its production is inscreasing (as a consequence of the cold war), its popularity is falling down in the USA, mainly after a failed test in 1954 and the dangerous radioactives dusts that fall to the neighbours islands inhabitants” (Castle Bravo sur l’atoll de Bikini).

And that’s why, in 1957, some genius (including [1]) guys from the LRL decided to do everything they can to improve the public image of the atomic bomb. And what better way to pacify the bomb that using it as a public utility tool : the project was plainly called Project Chariot, and its purpose was to use the mighty H bomb to build, from scratch, a gigantic harbor in the Alaska, at a strategic point to significantly improve the transport of coal.

Than plan seems to be taken verbatim from a really bad science fiction novel : six bombs, two bigs ones (of one megaton), to dig a huge whole for the harbor basin, and four little ones (100 TNT kiloton, which is still six time the Hiroshima bomb) to help connect the harbor to the ocean. After the explosions, just clean it up, and build there some houses, and all done, a few weeks later, you have a shiny and clean new harbor !

A shiny new harbor, and as « no one live there, that north in Alaska », so no problem with atomic radiations.

The project is approved, and it even had a slogan : « If your moutain is not at a convenient spot, just send us a postal card ». As if, an atomic bomb was after all nothing more than a good old dynamite stick…

But that was without including the fierce resistance of an Iñupiak [2] village, located at less than 50 kms (for American ignorants, that’s about 31 miles, cf [3]) of the located spot for the new harbor. As we could expect from them, they strictly refused any possibility of pollution of their hunting territory.

Also, maybe some americans diplomats were not thrilled by the idea to bring such bombs as close to the USSR : the Chariot project was abandoned in 1962.

And, that’s why they did not redraw the Alaska with an atomic bomb. Ouf !

Inspiration:this article on « Le Monde ».
[1]Edward Teller, considered as one of the father of the american atomic bomb, and director of the LRL from 1958 to 1960.
[2]The inupiak, ou iñupiak is a group of dialects of the Inuit language, spoken by the Inupiat people in northern and northwestern Alaska. This information is from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inupiak.
[3]See this kms to miles conversion tool.