In the late 1950’s, the U.S. government planned to develop a deep-water port off the far northwestern corner of Alaska. The plans moved forward, despite the fact the waters in the region are frozen solid most of the year.
“Without the animals, we wouldn’t be who we are today – you know the gift of life that they give us, because they gave us an identity – and that is why we are so protective of the animals that we depend on,” Oomittuk says.
But there is a footnote in history that shows just how close this region came to something incredibly frightening – now, out there is the Chukchi Sea, and at one point the U.S. government wanted to build a deep water port. Never mind the fact that the ocean is frozen nine months out of the year. And, the way the government wanted to build the port is unbelievable.
It was post World War II, and a scientist named Edward Teller was leading the push to find commercial uses for the United States stockpile of nuclear weapons. You heard right, nuclear weapons.
In the late 50’s and early 60’s, Teller and his team determined that five strategically placed nuclear warheads would create an instant deep water port less than 45 kilometers from this small coastal village of Native Alaskans. A port for ships, and a way to move coal and other natural resources in the high north. It was labeled Project Chariot.
Caroline Cannon says it’s amazing how far the project advanced.
“When you think about it – you are just like -oh, my God. And, I think the federal government came at a time, you know, back in the day that they came and saw that we were soft-hearted people -and they took advantage of that.”
“They got all this set – they got the detonations – they drilled the holes, this was supposed to be 100-times stronger than Hiroshima,” Oomittuk says.
The point man for Project Chariot -Edward Teller was no quack. He was one of the leading scientists that helped the U.S. develop the first nuclear bomb, the Manhattan Project, during World War II.
It was Teller who told the people of Point hope, the wind, and ice would carry harmful radiation far away.
Before the U.S. government could dig holes to plant the charges. The people of Point Hope dug in their heels and refused to move.
This short-circuited plans to find commercial uses for nuclear weapons, sparing Point Hope and the world from Project Chariot.