BMEWS: Abandoned Missile Tracking Station in Chaguaramas, Trinidad

The abandoned Macqueripe Missile Tracking Station in Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago (Image: Chris Fitzpatrick. Abandoned Macqueripe missile tracking station in Chaguaramas)

During the 1950s, the West became aware of Soviet efforts to develop a network of inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBM) behind the Iron Curtain, capable of hitting cities in Europe and North America. At that time, as the Cold War was heating up, the United States was already building an early warning system across the Arctic, known as the DEW Line. The Dew (or Distant Early Warning) Line, however, was designed to track incoming Russian bombers flying down the northern approaches, and wasn’t capable of tracking a strike by hundreds of ICBMs that would take just 20 minutes to hit their targets.

Derelict radar antenna of the redundant Cold War BMEWS missile monitoring station in Chaguaramas, Trinidad (Image: Stephen Jay PhotographyFacebook)

The solution was the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS), a network of 12 communications systems that included ballistic missile detection radars. One of the earliest examples, now abandoned, stands in the Tucker Valley of Trinidad and Tobago.

The BMEWS radar is located near Macqueripe in Chaguaramas, on the North West Peninsula of Trinidad, the larger and most populous of the two landmasses that make up the island nation. The land had been leased to the US government by the United Kingdom in 1940 for construction of a naval base as part of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement, which saw 50 mothballed US Navy warships transferred to the Royal Navy in return for land rights on British territories overseas.

(Image: Stephen Jay PhotographyFacebook)

The US naval base in Chaguaramas was reportedly scaled back in 1958, around the time that Trinidad and Tobago obtained self-governance from the UK. But the Cold War BMEWS early warning radar at the Macqueripe missile tracking station is understood to have remained operational until 1971, as part of the US Air Force’s Eastern Test Range.

Atlas Obscura writes that “the abandoned remains continued to be important as a symbol of the Trinidadian fight for sovereignty,” adding: “Today the empty structures on the site retain a gloomy movie-like atmosphere when the day is misty, but it makes a great place for star gazing when the night is clear.”

(Image: Stephen Jay PhotographyFacebook)

Decades after it was decommissioned, the giant radar dish antenna of the abandoned Macqueripe missile tracking station in Chaguaramas looms over the landscape, its dilapidated structure appearing all but derelict. Over the years the former US Air Force installation has become a popular jogging and hiking trail, though it’s future is now uncertain.

Last year the decaying structure became shrouded in controversy. Proposals to develop the land near Macqueripe as a luxury hotel came under fire¬†from critics who pointed out that the area was zoned as a nature reserve, and that the ruined BMEWS monitoring base was historically significant to the island nation’s history.

The historic Macqueripe missile tracking station in Trinidad and Tobago (Image: Stephen Jay PhotographyFacebook)

Marc De Verteuil, chairman of Papa Bois Conservation, told the Trinidad Express: “The Tracking Station is of international importance as a heritage site. The buildings must be stabilized as they have been allowed to deteriorate. The tracking station could be a tourist attraction of international significance if the site is managed intelligently, and according to the law.”

Related: Abandoned Radar Bases: 10 Defunct Early Warning Systems & Listening Stations


About the author: Tom





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