Project Chariot, Cape Thompson

Project Chariot, Cape Thompson

by | Jul 10, 2020

Cape Thompson is a promontory on the Chukchi Sea coast, about 41 miles (66 km) northwest of Kivalina and about 31 miles (50 km) southeast of Point Hope, Alaska. This cape was first discovered by Russians in the late 18th century and was named “Cape Rikord,” for Peter Ivanovich Rikord, the Governor of Kamchatka in 1817-1822. The cape was named by Captain Frederick William Beechey in 1886 for Deas Thomson, one of the commissioners of the Royal Navy. Beechey spelled the name “Thompson” on his chart, a form that has been copied by succeeding cartographers. An early native name for the cape was “Uivaq”.

Project Chariot was a 1958 U.S. Atomic Energy Commission proposal to construct an artificial harbor at Cape Thompson on the Chukchi Sea by burying and detonating a series of nuclear devices. The plan was championed by Edward Teller, who traveled throughout the state touting the harbor as an important economic development. Alaskan political leaders, newspaper editors, the state university’s president, even church groups all rallied in support of the massive detonation. Opposition came from the tiny Iñupiat village of Point Hope and a few scientists.

Although the detonation never occurred, the site was radioactively contaminated by an experiment to estimate the effect of radioactive debris on water sources. Radioactive material from a nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site was transported to the Chariot site in August 1962, then used in several experiments and buried. Thirty years later, the disposal was discovered in archival documents by a University of Alaska researcher. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cape Thompson and the Project Chariot site here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2021 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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