White Alice communications antennae
An otherworldly cluster of communications antennae, built decades ago to warn the nation of a missile attack by the Soviet Union, is set to become the permanent centerpiece of a recreation and tourist area overlooking this Northwest Alaska city.
The White Alice communications site on the curving crest of Anvil Mountain has not operated since 1979, and like the 30 other White Alice stations in Alaska with large billboard antennae, it was contaminated with asbestos, lead, polychlorinated biphenyl and spilled fuel.
Yet the city's fondness for the massive antennae and the history they represent endures. They symbolize connection to the rest of the country, and the outside world in general. They're a reminder — in case anyone needs reminding — that Nome is less than 150 miles from Russia, a major U.S. antagonist. And they provide reassurance that Nome, a town of 3,800 people on a remote shore of the Bering Sea, matters.
They're still useful, too. The assemblage of four antennae, which resembles a Stonehenge built by Martians, serves as a navigational aid for pilots, hunters, crabbers and many others in a region with few obvious landmarks. Built for a communications technology called "tropospheric scatter" that was soon surpassed by satellite, the antennae are among the last of their kind in Alaska.