Cape Newenham, Bristol Bay

Cape Newenham, Bristol Bay

by | Apr 19, 2019

Cape Newenham is a massive headland on the Bering Sea between Kuskokwim and Bristol Bays, about 40 miles (65 km) west of Hagemeister Island, Alaska. The cape was named on July 16, 1778, by Lieutenant Williamson, of the Royal Navy, when he was sent ashore to reconnoiter by Captain James Cook. According to Cook’s logbook, Williamson landed on the point, climbed the highest hill, and left a sealed bottle with a piece of paper listing the names of the ships and the date of discovery.

Cape Newenham Air Force Station was a continental defense radar station constructed during the Cold War to provide early warning of an attack by the Soviet Union on Alaska. Station construction began on 12 September 1950 and became operational in April 1954, two years behind schedule. The station had a tramway connecting the base camp with the radar antennas located on a mountain peak at 2,300 feet (701 m). This was used to move equipment and supplies up the mountain. However, the tramway cables were constantly breaking because of high winds and ice and the extreme cold made repairs hazardous. The station was resupplied annually by sealift. The bulk cargo was delivered to the beach below the headland by landing craft, while fuel was pumped ashore to storage tanks. A runway was built in 1952 to facilitate the transportation of personnel and critical cargo. Communications were initially provided by a high-frequency radio, but this was unreliable because of atmospheric disturbances and replaced with a White Alice Communications System.

The radar surveillance station was closed in 1983 and re-designated as a Long Range Radar site as part of the Alaska Radar System. Today, very little of the former Cape Newenham Air Force Station remains. The station remains active as part of the Alaska NORAD Region under the control of the Pacific Air Forces based at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. The site is generally unattended, occasionally a few civilian contractors are needed to maintain the radar system. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cape Newenham here:

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