Monday, February 10, 2014

White Alice

White Alice (source

Until the 1950s Alaska had only basic telephone communication systems. Between 1955-1958 a telecommunication network named the White Alice Communications System (WACS) was constructed. It connected remote Air Force sites in Alaska (such as the Distant Early Warning Line and Ballistic Missile Early Warning System) and in some cases it was also used for civilian phone calls. Communication improved after White Alice was installed, but even in the mid 1960s an Anchorage resident could only place a call to the lower 48 states at one place located downtown.

White Alice stations

Around the state 71 support facilities provided reliable communications to far-flung, isolated, and often rugged locales. It used tropospheric scatter for over-the-horizon links and microwave relay for shorter line-of-sight links. White Alice was designed by Western Electric, and civilian contractors maintained it. Construction was extremely expensive; mountain top sites had an upper camp with the electronic equipment and a lower camp with support facilities (these were sometimes connected by a tram system). The system was advanced for its time, but became obsolete within 20 years following the advent of satellite communications. By the end of the 1970s, most of the system was deactivated.

White Alice (source

In the 1950s the Air Force used two word code names and White Alice was the code name selected for this project. It is fairly certain that White was used to indicate the snowy Arctic. However, it is unclear where the term Alice originated. Some sources suggest that Alice is an acronym for ALaska Integrated Communications Enterprise. Other sources suggest that the system would have been named Alice White had there not been an actress with that name at the time. Thus it was reversed to White Alice.

This post was inspired by fellow blog Adalbert.

next episode: bullit

7 comments:

  1. A bit bleak there. I had a great aunt who lived there in the 1960s and she used to send us tapes from there. You could hear the grizzlies rattling the trash cans - I do remember that (unless my chidhood memories are muddled up)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Grizzly bears roaming the back garden must be scary. Cats, OK, but bears...

      Delete
  2. I like the shape and size of the constructions, they look like something out of a science fiction movie. The name 'White Alice' also lends itself to some strange movie project.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. White Alice The Movie, you've got a point here :-).

      Delete
  3. Thanks for the acknowledgment and glad I inspired the post, Rob! I didn't know much about the White Alice network until fairly recently. I've been up in northern BC when I was a kid but haven't yet made it to Alaska. Good post. The top photo in particular is breathtaking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is indeed, I didn't know these structures existed on such a large scale.

      Delete
  4. How fascinating! Incredibly interesting, and I'm very much one to wonder and search for the answer in just why did they decide on that name? Great photos as well.

    ReplyDelete

I love to read your remarks and suggestions!

Please don't comment using the name 'Anonymous', because unfortunately these will end up in the spam department, due to the large bots leaving anonymous comments with questionable links...

ShareThis

Gadgets By Spice Up Your Blog Real Time Web Analytics