Project Sanguine was a U.S. Navy project, proposed in 1968 for communication with submerged submarines using extremely low frequency (ELF) radio waves. A test system consisting of two linked ELF transmitters located at Clam Lake, Wisconsin and Republic, Michigan in the middle of the U.P. It was constructed in 1982 and operated from 1989 until 2004. Using ELF frequencies the bandwidth of the transmission is very small, so the system could only send short coded text messages at a very low data rate. These signals were used to summon specific vessels to the surface to receive longer operational orders by ordinary radio or satellite communication. They were able to communicate with submarines over about half the world’s surface. The system transmitted continuously, 24 hours a day, sending an “idle” message when it was not being used so that submarines could verify they were within communication range. The completed system’s antenna that was originally proposed would have covered almost a quarter of Wisconson. Because of protests opposing the environmental impact, the system was never fully constructed.
The Clam Lake facility, which served as the test site and was originally called the Wisconsin Test Facility (WTF) consisted of two 14-mile transmission line antennas (called ground dipoles) in the shape of a cross, with the transmitter station at their intersection. The Republic facility consisted of three transmission lines, two 14-mile and one 28-mile, in the shape of the letter “F” (the shape is not significant and was dictated by land availability). The lines, made of half-inch aluminum cable supported on insulators on 40-foot wooden utility poles which resembled ordinary power transmission lines. The ends of the transmission lines were grounded by 1 to 3 miles of buried copper cable and ground rods. The transmitters sent alternating currents of 300 amperes through the lines, which passed through the buried electrodes deep into the Earth.
The system was controversial, and was the target of legal attacks and protests throughout its operating life. On five occasions protesters cut down transmission line poles. In 2004 the Navy shut down both transmitters, with the explanation that very low frequency (VLF) communication systems had improved to the point that the ELF system was unnecessary.
I want to check out the site near Republic, but it is low on my list of places to visit. I think all you can see from the road is a guard shack and a gate so I have not tried to hard to get a photo of the former base. I did want to share the story with you and I hope you thought it was as interesting and strange as I thought it was.
If you are wondering what the word sanguine means like I did, the dictionary defines it as: optimistic or positive, especially in an apparently bad or difficult situation.
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