A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
The Third Reich’s Arctic Outpost
In 1943, the German navy constructed a secret base on the island of Alexandra Land in the Arctic Ocean. Codenamed “Treasure Hunter,” the station was staffed by meteorologists who provided weather forecasts to German cruisers and submarines in the Arctic. After the war, Soviet officials ordered the base destroyed. “We had only a very vague understanding of where the station was and how much had been preserved,” says Russian Arctic National Park archaeologist Evgeni Ermolov, who led a team that recently rediscovered the site. They found evidence of residences, warehouses, and a network of defensive structures, along with artifacts such as cartridges, batteries, and even pieces of raincoats. “We were surprised to find some artifacts still bearing German military insignia,” says Ermolov.
After the station’s destruction, rumors circulated that it had also been a submarine base and was outfitted with fortified bunkers. The team found no evidence to support that theory, but they did discover the remains of a temporary airfield. It was built in July 1944 for a long-range reconnaissance aircraft that set down on the island to evacuate the station. The base’s entire crew had contracted trichinosis after eating undercooked polar bear meat, and had to be flown to Norway for treatment, leaving the station abandoned for the remainder of the war.
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