DEW Line Passage

Wainwright (Olgoonik) & LIZ-3 Auxiliary DEW Line Site

Our canoe on the bluff at Wainwright, parked next to Waldo Bodfish's old boat. The boat - still seaworthy, in Ryan's opinion -
worked up and down the coast during the 1940s for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.


Yet another use for rusted tundra daisies: as a base for our woodstove in the tent.

This is the little house we are staying in while we are in Wainwright. Our host is Charles Ekak (aka Chuck Wagon) who is the lead volunteer at the local Search and Rescue base and never comes home.

This building was actually the original city building and had the first telephone in town back in the 1960s. A line of folks wanting to get on the horn used to form outside. Nowadays it doesn't have phone, water, or electricity but it has a nice oil drip stove and we are so grateful for the digs.



A local took us for a tour in his boat, "Miss Behavin," out to the DEW Line dump and radar site.

The LIZ-3 Auxiliary DEW Line site was deactivated in 1995 and the North Warning System Short Range Radar operated from 1994 to 2007, when it was closed due to erosion problems and budgetary concerns.
The main dump site at LIZ-3 has been directly on the shore of the Kuk River (it is known as the local lagoon). The dump was covered with dirt at some point but erosion and subsidence was exacerbated by nearby gravel extraction.
At this point almost the entire dump, the size of which can only be guessed at, is in the lagoon. The entire 300 foot doppler tower is in the lagoon as well as other equipment and material, much of which is visible at low tide.
They just don't make typewriters like they used to.
A local man walks around the abandoned radar.
Everything decays very rapidly in this environment as soon as it is not kept up.
Weasels live here now.
The much newer North Warning System buildings are clean and tight.

An entire room at the site was comprised of shelving for hard alcohol. The amount of alcohol imported into the Arctic by the DEW Line is extraordinary and the cultural impacts were in proportion. This subject merits an entire chapter in my dissertation. The price for a case of booze at the DEW Line is about the same as a bottle goes for in a dry* North Slope Borough village.

A sampling of the offerings:
Wild Turkey 101
Remy Martin
Crown Royal
Canadian Club
Jim Beam
Jack Daniels
Chivas Regal

* Many North Slope Borough villages are dry: the purchase, sale, and consumption of alcohol is illegal.


We climbed up a long, dark spiral stairway to the level below the radome and up another flight to the "big balloon" itself.
The radar, which must weigh several tons, still spins around very smoothly when you push it.


I was riding the radar-go-round.
Local guys are a bit more adventurous: they like to climp up on the spinning radar and grab the rope that hangs from the top of the radome...

...and swing, trying to land successfully back on the spinning radar.

"We've got a thing that's called Radar Love,
We've got a line in the sky..."
This 5-month old goes exploring everywhere with her parents - into radomes, on long fast 4-wheeler rides, etc.
View of some barrel piles from the radar.
Pakaking through the site.
An old DEW Line weasel sits in a yard in town. Wainwright, located some 6 miles from the DEW Site itself, has been much less impacted by the radar site than other villages which are closer.
We hang out at and volunteer for the Search and Rescue base in Wainwright - it is such a cool place. Here, everyone is getting ready to go on a mission up river to put new windows in a rescue cabin.
The Argo amphibious tracked vehicle gets used for certain occasions.
Working on the rescue cabin.

Hauling a load of garbage back to town...




...with a little help in the sand from the 4-wheelers.

Returning from a successful mission helping to tow the Precipice, a 30-foot wooden sailboat, into the shallow waters of the Wainwright lagoon. The family, having just successfully completed the Northwest Passage (!!) decided to pull in to avoid some weather that was coming. Like us, they are still in Wainwright waiting for better sailing weather.


With their 5.5 foot draft, it took two boats to tow the Precipice - one to pull it sideways when it got stuck and one to pull forward.

Unfortunately, the wind has been pushing the water out of the lagoon, making it even shallower. All this makes me so glad that when our humble craft runs out of water (we only need about a foot) we can simply step out of the boat and pull it with a rope.

Wildlife biologists with the USGS Walrus Research Program and veterinarians have been in town to study the major walrus haul out at Icy Cape, just south of here. The biologists dart some adult walrus to be able to track their movements.


Playing 'crib' at the Rescue Base.

Rescue Base scored the old pool table from the DEW Line!

Next: Icy Cape and Point Lay

(Romantic rendition of a DEW Line site from a Red Rose Tea box)

Back: Barrow and Peard Bay

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