Monthly presentation series Northern Now welcomes permafrost expert


PERMAFROST EXPERT — Join Fritz Nelson, a former wildcat, for a presentation of the struggles of building on permafrost. Specifically, the struggle of building the Alcan highway, a historical road built back in 1942. Photo Credit: “permafrost” by edwardpalmquist is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

Jesse Wiederhold

This Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m., NMU will welcome Fritz Nelson, a former member of the NMU Alumni Association Board as well as a recipient of the 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award, who will speak about permafrost. Specifically, about permafrost and how it complicated the Alcan project, a highway between Alaska and Canada built in 1942.

The presentation by Nelson will be held via a livestream. According to NMU’s event page, he will “discuss the 1,400-mile Alaska-Canada (“Alcan”) Highway that was developed through nearly uncharted wilderness over a period of only seven months in 1942.” This was monumental for the times, but as the event aims to explain, this was a “pioneer” road. It was not exactly ready for the type of ground it was built on: permafrost.

The talk will explain how the U.S. Army came to adopt their initial building techniques and then lead into the huge problems that arose from building on the permafrost. The event will also go over how the road was saved, and what the large role African-Americans played in the construction. The U.S.-Soviet relationships will be outlined too and how they played a part in the construction.

Following the presentation by Nelson, Suzy Ziegler, professor and department head of earth, environmental and geographical sciences and associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, will be available for a live Q&A session.
Come learn about this monumental construction project and gain insight to the past on the evening of Nov. 11. Registration is required for the event, and a confirmation with a link to the stream will be provided once you register on the sign-up page. This presentation is part of a digital event series by the Northern Michigan University Alumni Association called Northern Now.