Archive for March 22nd, 2006

Cold War Relics

Just days after North Korea declares it’s ability to wage pre-emptive nuclear war on the United States, workers in Brooklyn discovered a cold-war era fallout shelter beneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

John Lewis Gaddis is wrong, though, about one thing – the tinned crackers. Unless the tins have rusted, they’re still every bit as edible as they were back then. In fact, when the Office of Civil Defense was disbanded a few years ago, their warehouses of stockpiled supplies were sold on the surplus market, and several dozen tons of the crackers were sold – at a pittance, of course – to a large commercial pig farming operation.

Truth be told, lack of palatability aside – they were designed for nutritional value and storability – the tinned crackers held up rather better than the radiological survey meters, whose fairly complicated vacuum-tube circuits were finicky forty years ago and haven’t been improved by decades in storage without calibration or alignment.

Reminescent of Doctor Strangelove, a lot of mines in the U.S. were used as fallout shelters; most of the supplies tended not to fare too well in the damp environment underground, but after a while it was a moot point, even before the cold war ended. Still, it’s amusing to think that there was some basis in fact for the famous quip of President Merkin – “We must not allow a mine-shaft gap!”. Strangely enough, I’ve never seen any sign that any of the Twin Cities’ underground tunnels or caves were employed as shelters, though it’s likely the mines under the Ford Plant on the west side had at least one cache of supplies, and possibly the old Ford mine by the Crosby Farm marina, the former Tunnel of Terror attraction, had one as well.

A storm drain would actually make a fairly poor fallout shelter, at least long-term; it can reasonably be expected that gross surface contamination will very quickly make it’s way into groundwater and stormwater, and a large sewer may well drain twenty or more square miles of surface, concentrating a lot of contamination in a very little area. Utility tunnels, on the other hand…

Published in: Geekiness, General, History, Urban Exploration | on March 22nd, 2006 | Comments Off on Cold War Relics