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When an MTU Professor took on the U.S. Navy | News, Sports, Jobs


When an MTU Professor took on the U.S. Navy | News, Sports, Jobs

4 2 US Navy ELF transmitter map

This map of the border between Michigan and Wisconsin shows the locations of Navy Radio transmitters in Clam Lake, Wisconsin, and Republic. (Provided photo)

PELKIE — Approximately 20 miles southwest of Houghton, Eunice Carlson, Ph.D. resides in a small farm residence. A native of the upper peninsula, she received her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and her doctorate from Columbia University along with post graduate studies from Harvard.

After obtaining her degrees, in 1970 Carlson returned to the upper peninsula. For nearly 40 years she taught at Michigan Technological University. In addition, for a brief period, she worked on research for Proctor and Gamble Corporation.

Many Upper Peninsula residents and former students will recall Carlson’s athletic abilities. Most noted was her first and second place age class winnings in Wisconsin’s American Birkebeiner cross country ski race.

By 1975, Carlson and a number of co-faculty members and an MTU dean began to monitor the U.S. Navy’s proposed Project Seafarer nuclear submarine communications system. The Navy was seeking public input on Seafarer.

Carlson stated, “From a preliminary standpoint, my major concern was Project Seafarer’s probable impact on the environment, as well as ecological aspects.” She added, “I also saw Seafarer being part of an instrument of mass destruction.”

As concerns, opposition, and some limited support to Seafarer became more visible to upper peninsula residents, Carlson and a handful of other leading individuals formed People Against Sanguine and Seafarer (PASS).

PASS began to concentrate on conducting research and public forums in the seven-county region which would be impacted by the Navy’s significant electric communications system. During this process students became engaged.

PASS and others undertook a letter writing campaign to local, state, and federal political leadership and the media. In addition, with the seven counties, they requested leadership establish a documented referendum offering their stand on Seafarer.

Carlson revealed nearly 90 percent of the referendums opposed the project.


Numerous media began to follow this topic, including a Detroit Free Press reporter whose research and subsequent story was followed by CBS Television’s 60 Minutes.

Dan Rather and the 60 Minutes production crew arrived to conduct a feature story. Electromagnetic transmissions emitted from high voltage power lines waves were a topic the show was following. 60 Minutes previously focused on non-ionizing radiation effects on humans conducted by scientists Robert Becker and Andrew Marino.

Rather interviewed Carlson at her Pelkie property, sitting on a bale of hay next to the adjacent river. Carlson commented, “Rather seemed more interested in discussing the biological impacts of the proposed system versus environmental.”

Carlson added, PASS and other interested parties conducted a court hearing in Ontonagon County. She stated, “The judge concluded that Project Seafarer was a threat to health and the environment.”

In summary, Project Seafarer was scraped. Less than a decade later the system was reconfigured and installed as Project ELF spanning a good portion of the upper peninsula into northern Wisconsin.

PASS research materials and documents are now housed at MTU’s library.


Sr. Carol Gilbert, OP is with the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1976, when the U.S. Catholic Bishops conducted their Call-to-Action conference, the Sisters established a multi-pronged social justice focus, which, in part addressed nuclear proliferation.

In the early 1990s, Sr. Carol and fellow Sisters became engaged with non-violent protests and actions at Oscoda’s Wurtsmith Air Force Base. The installation was of significant importance during Operation Desert Storm.

Her religious Order later assigned Sr. Carol to Gwinn’s K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, where she soon learned of Project ELF. With a group of activists, including university students, they scaled the fence at the Republic, Michigan’s ELF transmission site. She and others were arrested by the Michigan State Police and escorted to the Marquette County jail. No formal charges were issued against Sr. Carol.

John LaForge was an established member of Wisconsin-based Nukewatch. He had periodic interaction with Michigan protesters. LaForge and other protesters conducted demonstrations at Calm Lake. Yhese protesters were arrested by County Sheriff representatives.

LaForge commented that over a period of years nearly 100 protesters were arrested who jointly served 11 total years in prison.

Tom Hastings, Ed.D., currently a faculty member at Portland State University and former board member with Stop Project ELF, commented his organization conducted protests. They removed ELF installation survey stakes and marking ribbons and cut down transmission poles. They too scaled fences into both ELF transmission sites.

Hastings noted a Michigan referendum on Project ELF indicated 80 percent of upper peninsula voting residents opposed the U.S. Navy’s project.

Hastings was arrested and sentenced to a three-year sentence. He served one year with the remaining under house arrest.

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