Camp TUTO Sixty Year Anniversary

Posted by William Colgan on September 30, 2014
Applied Glaciology, Cold War Science, Glaciology History

Sixty years ago this month, in September 1954, the US Army Corps of Engineers completed its first summer of construction at Camp TUTO, Greenland. Camp TUTO was tucked against the Greenland ice sheet east of Thule Air Base. The gently sloping ice sheet adjacent to the camp, earmarked for vehicle access to the ice sheet interior, was named Thule Take-Off (or TUTO). Over the summer of 1954, some of the one hundred soldiers stationed at Camp TUTO built a gravel road up the first 1500 meters (4700 feet) of TUTO Ramp. Although that got them above the sometimes bare ice and slush of the lower elevation ice sheet melt zone, it still proved difficult to drive over the soft snow of the higher elevation ice sheet accumulation zone.

In official reports, the US Army Corps of Engineers tested “every off-road military vehicle (probably not excepting Hannibal’s elephants)” in the search for a suitable over-snow vehicle. The M29C Weasel, originally designed as an amphibious vehicle late in the Second World War, had proved disappointing in swampy terrain, but exceptionally nimble on the ice sheet. Although the Weasel was out of production even before construction started at Camp TUTO, it became a beloved backbone of US Army logistics on the Greenland ice sheet for almost two decades.

Constructing TUTO Ramp and adopting the Weasel opened up the interior of the Greenland ice sheet for a wide array of military engineering activities, including the construction of ice sheet runways and under-snow stations, as well as civilian science activities, including recovering the first “deep” ice core and wide-ranging snow and accumulation surveys. An auspicious anniversary of a ground-breaking project in applied glaciology!

(skimmed from my upcoming Cold War science project.)

TUTO_Ramp_in_1954

The view up TUTO Ramp, from the ice margin at Camp TUTO, on to the Greenland ice sheet in 1954. (from Nate Galbreath at thule1954.com)

Weasels_on_the_ice_sheet_in_1954

Modified M29C Weasels in convoy (left) on the Greenland ice sheet in 1954. (from Nate Galbreath at thule1954.com).

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1 Comment to Camp TUTO Sixty Year Anniversary

  • Im glad you contacted me. I’ve got to find somewhere to archive the website, I’m in my 80’s and not in the greatest of health. Maybe the Library of Congress. I had my own International orange
    weasel left with by a British
    expedition that had been on the cap for sometime with 6 weasels. They got back with only the one. I was a lowly 2nd louie, and one of our maintenance Captains got so jealous he slipped by and cannibalized enough parts that it no longer ran. I had been driving from the barracks to my warehouse. My capt. got me appointed a driver on the huge Le Tourneo {sp?} swamp buggy. We followed one of our sled swings 250 miles out on the cap to the radar base. A guy called me asking ,e of I was a driver on the Buggy. he was calling me from the LeT” museum and asked me to set up a time for a phone interview for the museum. Then he called me back and said he found a log Mr. LeT had made when he came up to Thule to check on how we were treating his buggy. My unit brought him out on the cap with our choppers. He also sent me a picture the old man took of the buggy with the 4 drivers, including me.

    Thanks for the memories,

    Nate

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