Cape Romanzof, Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta

Cape Romanzof, Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta

by | May 15, 2019

Cape Romanzof is a headland at the west end of the Asiknuk Mountains, between Kokechik and Scammon Bays, in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. The cape was named “Cape of Count Rumyantsov” by Captain G.S. Shishmarev of the Imperial Russian Navy in 1821. The name commemorates Count Rumyantsov who built and outfitted a vessel of 180 tons, named Rurik, for the purpose of exploring the supposed northwest passage by way of the Davis Strait or Hudson Bay. The present spelling of the name on maps and charts was established by the Board of Geographic Names.

Cape Romanzof was the site of a continental defense radar station constructed by the U.S. Air Force in 1950 to provide early warning of an attack by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The only means of delivering construction materials to the site was by barge or Navy landing craft, however, this was restricted to when the sea was not frozen. The material had to be unloaded at a beach landing 15 miles (24 km) from the construction site. Initially, there were no roads, and each item had to be hauled along the beach and then an additional 5 miles (8 km) inland. The radars were located on a mountain peak at 2,300 feet (700 m) elevation. The station had a tramway to facilitate access to the radars on top of the mountain, but the tramway cables were constantly breaking because of high winds and ice. The buildings were connected by enclosed portals, so no one needed to go outside in winter unless absolutely necessary. Tours at the station were limited to one year because of the psychological strain and physical hardships.

The Cape Romanzof radars provided information to the air defense center at King Salmon where it was analyzed to determine the range, direction altitude speed and whether aircraft were friendly or hostile. Communications were initially provided by a high-frequency radio system which proved unreliable because of atmospheric disturbances. The Alaskan Air Command, after investigating various options, decided to build the White Alice Communications System, a system of tropospheric scatter and microwave radio relay sites. The Cape Romanzof White Alice communication system was activated in 1957 and deactivated in 1979 when it was replaced by a satellite earth terminal. The radars were deactivated in 1983 and the station re-designated as a Long Range Radar Site. In 1998, Pacific Air Forces initiated “Operation Clean Sweep” to remediate abandoned Cold War stations in Alaska and restore the land. Today, the station remains active as part of the Alaska NORAD Region under the jurisdiction of the 611th Air Support Group, Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, but very little of the former Cape Romanzof Air Force Station remains. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cape Romanzof here:

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