The Soviets Wanted To Dam The Pacific And Melt The Arctic

By Nolan Moore on Saturday, January 18, 2014
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“But as crazy as I am, my crazy plans work!” —Kathy Loop, Short Story Collection #1

In A Nutshell

During the Cold War, Russia wanted to get at the massive reservoirs of petroleum in the Arctic and Siberia, but all that ice was getting in the way. So Soviet scientist Petr Mikhailovich Borisov came up with a crazy idea to help the Motherland. He wanted to build a dam from Russia to Alaska in order to reverse the world’s oceans and melt the Arctic.

The Whole Bushel

Vladimir Lenin once wrote that men should become “masters of nature,” and during the Cold War, the Soviets did their best to follow his instructions. While we usually associate the Nazis with bizarre schemes, the Soviets had their own wacky plots, one of which was so insane that had it worked, it would’ve screwed up the entire planet. In their quest to conquer the elements, the Soviet Union seriously thought about reversing the oceans and melting the Arctic.

Russia has a reputation for being a bit chilly. In 2013, 63 percent of the country was covered in permafrost, and all that ice and snow made things pretty complicated for the Soviet government back in the 1960s. Anxious to beat America in the war for global dominance, the Russians wanted to get at the huge amounts of petroleum in the Arctic and Siberia. Those natural resources would have been a huge boost for their economy, but all that ice was getting in the way. It was then a scientist by the name of Petr Mikhailovich Borisov proposed a totally outlandish idea.

Borisov was a respected scientist, the winner of the Stalin Prize, but his plot sounded like something straight out of a comic book. He wanted to build a gigantic dam stretching all the way from Russia to Alaska. This mega-wall would float on concrete pontoons that were 60 meters (200 ft) below the waves, and the dam would even be equipped with massive propellers that would reroute the planet’s largest ocean. Borisov’s plan was to keep the Pacific out of the Arctic Circle thus allowing the warm Gulf Stream to wind its way up from Florida and melt all the ice. Then presto! No more Arctic, no more ice, and plenty of petroleum for Mother Russia. This guy would’ve made a great Bond villain.

Today, we chuckle at the idea of a humongous dam reversing the world’s currents, but shockingly, world leaders gave it serious consideration for a while. The Russians really wanted to get at that petroleum but knew they couldn’t do it alone. Borisov believed the dam would be an excellent opportunity for the world’s countries to work together and perhaps a way to end the Cold War. He wanted the USSR to team up with Canada, Japan, Northern Europe, and the United States, and together these countries would make the world a much more tropical place. And for a while, several key politicians were considering Russia’s proposal. Even a young senator by the name of John F. Kennedy thought the plan was worth looking into.

Obviously, Borisov’s dam was never built. Most scientists didn’t think the wall would even work, and it’s probably a good thing it never happened. If the Soviet scheme had been successful, we’d be living in a very different world today. Borisov was a dreamer, but he never really stopped to think about how his dam might affect the world in the long run. Let’s hope today’s scientists are a little more cautious when it comes to altering the balance of the planet.

Show Me The Proof

Smithsonian: Russia’s Cold War Plan to Reverse the Ocean and Melt the Arctic
The Soviet Scientist Who Dreamed of Melting the Arctic with a 55 Mile Dam