H.A.A.R.P. – Gakona, Alaska - Atlas Obscura

AO Edited


Gakona, Alaska

An auroral research program that superheats the ionosphere. 


From a distance, it looks like a parking lot filled with over-sized television antennae. In actuality it is the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program or HAARP, a government research facility focused on physical and electrical properties of the earth’s ionosphere. Set against the Alaskan forest, HAARP is, to certain conspiracy theorists, neither a research program nor a TV antennae, but a weather control device, space weapon, and a death ray.

Funded by DARPA, the United States Air Force, and the Navy, HAARP’s projects involve superheating the ionosphere with high-frequency radio waves. This incited the suspicions of physicist Bernard Eastlund and a small group of other scientists in the 1990s, who expressed concern about HAARP’s possible future use as a weapon. Russia also expressed concern and criticized HAARP as a “new integral geophysical weapon.” The Russian government now operates a very similar facility known as the Sura Ionospheric Heating Facility.

Despite the criticism, or because of it, the researchers at HAARP have tried to be more open about their research, stating unequivocally that “there are no classified documents pertaining to the HAARP.” They are adamant that the site is in no way a danger to anyone. Among the stated goals of HAARP are studying how the earth’s natural ionosphere affects radio signals, something of interest to both the commercial and military worlds. 

While there is little evidence to suggest that HAARP has any potential use as a weapon or anything else nefarious, one of the stated aims of the project is to generate VLF and ELF (very low frequencies and extremely low frequencies) for communication with submarines, and possible use in remotely searching for mineral content. HAARP recently bounced low-frequency signals off the moon in the “lunar echo” experiment and invited amateur radio enthusiasts to listen in. In the spirit of openness, HAARP hosted open house days to try and shake its conspiracy theorists. 

After two decades of building and three hundred million dollars in spending the site was closed by the US Air Force for lack of funding. As of August 2015, the site was officially handed over by the government to the University of Alaska. Whether being a university-run research station will lessen the howls of the HAARP truthers remains to be seen.

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December 28, 2015

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