Northern Now

Northern Now with Permafrost Expert Dr. Fritz Nelson ’73

Join us on Wednesday, November 11, at 7 p.m. ET as we welcome permafrost expert Dr. Fritz Nelson ’73, former NMU Alumni Association board member and Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient in 2007.

Dr. Nelson’s lecture, Hell of a Highway: Permafrost and the Development of the Alcan Project, will discuss the 1400-mile Alaska-Canada (“Alcan”) Highway that was developed through nearly uncharted wilderness over a period of only seven months in 1942. The road was one of the largest engineering projects undertaken in North America to that time. The largest single obstacle to the construction and efficient operation of the initial “pioneer” road was ice-rich frozen ground. Despite repeated warnings by Arctic experts about the use of mid-latitude engineering procedures in permafrost regions, the U.S. Army initially adopted conventional construction techniques, with disastrous consequences. This talk discusses how this World War II military road to Alaska came to be built, the strategic considerations motivating its construction, the monumental problems caused by naive engineering practice in permafrost terrain, how these problems were resolved, the large role played by African-Americans in the road's construction, and the ironic nature of U.S.-Soviet interactions involving permafrost during the cold war and beyond.

A live Q&A session for participants will follow his lecture hosted by Susy Ziegler, professor and department head of earth, environmental and geographical sciences and associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. The event is free and registration is required. Once you register, you will receive the link to the live stream.

Wednesday, Nov 11, 2020

Start Time:  7:00 pm
End Time:  8:00 pm

Event Status


Primary Contact

NMU Alumni Association

Contact Phone Number


Contact Email

Event Type

Ticket Cost