The Permafrost Tunnel Research Facility (PTRF) in Fox, AK, was excavated from 1963-1969 to test mining, tunneling, and construction techniques in permafrost. It is operated and maintained by the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since construction it has become a research facility for multiple institutions as well as a hub for education and outreach on permafrost. The tunnel contains features up to 40,000 years old, such as ice wedges as tall as houses, green grass from thousands of years ago, and bison bones embedded in permafrost.
The tunnel is seldom open to the public, so in March 2023 the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center (Ohio State University) hosted a live virtual tour to highlight current research and rapid changes to permafrost. The tour was moderated by Jason Cervenec (Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center) and guided by:
- Tom Douglas (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
- Robyn Barbato (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
- Patrick Druckenmiller (University of Alaska Fairbanks)
- Jennifer Moss (University of Alaska Fairbanks)
- Mike Brubaker (LEO Network)
- Anna Liljedahl (Woodwell Climate Research Center)
The live virtual tour was a great success with over 750 registrants. A recording of the tour (1h17m) and more information on the tunnel’s history and research are available below. Alternatively, you can explore the virtual tunnel in your time here.