Story last updated at 7/4/2012 - 1:43 pm
Little known events and in this case, a non-event, occasionally turn up when I am researching. It surprised me to find a 1965 attempt to test ram jet technology in a remote bay on the southwest coast of Dall Island, one of the outer islands on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island. No testing took place. The Forest Service said "no" to a special use permit for Port Bazan, a bay about 16 miles north of Cape Muzon, the southern tip of Dall Island.
The USFS permit application informs us that Rhodes and Bloxsom of Canoga Park, California selected Port Bazan for a site to test-fire ram jet engines. They were doing work for the Navy, Air Force and NASA and wanted to move from the Los Angeles area to eliminate annoyance to nearby residents and avoid delays from heavy off-shore shipping. The plan was to do static captive testing (on the pad without launching) and four-mile flight tests. I wonder if another unmentioned factor was the remote location that would keep technology secret until patented.
Google can tell you an amazing amount about what you don't know, so I started my search. The Nazi's fired thousands of rockets and missiles at various Allied nations, but the Allies had much less sophisticated missiles. After World War II, the United States began research to close and surpass this gap. The Navy developed and tested a series of air to air missiles that used ram jet propulsion in 1948-1949. These missiles only operated at high speed and were not a surface-to-air missile. During 1965, work advanced on ram jet engines with the idea of creating a passive homing missile that would seek out radar installations. New systems were being studied that were immune to jamming. Some studies were also made on solid propellant grains for use as ram jet fuel in long-range missiles. Tests also were made for missile autopilots. Was testing on any of these projects slated to have taken place at Port Bazan? I doubt we'll ever know.
The technology of how ram jet engines work exceeds my interest so I switched to learn about Barry V. Rhodes and Daniel E. Bloxsom Jr. They had been working on rocket and missile projectiles for many years. These men held several patents for supersonic fuel injectors, detonative combustion methods, and means for the ram jet engine.
How these men, who had a private company, found Port Bazan is not mentioned on the Special Use permit application. We learn that the company asked for a one-mile buffer zone around Port Bazan, but agreed to let fishing boats anchor in the bay during stormy weather.
Port Bazan is about three miles long and a number of islands are within the port. A missile launch ramp, dock, ballistic camera and board walk were to be located on Dolgoi Island at the mouth of the port. On a smaller island near Dolgoi Island, navigational aids and a dock would be constructed. On an island inside the bay, that the applicants called Anne Island, would isolate the magazine to store the propellant fuel. Living quarters were slated to be built at the head of the bay.
Port Bazan was, however, not a pristine wilderness. Abe Lokke clearcut timber on some of the mountain sides in the mid-1950s. No matter, the Forest Service rejected the proposal as being incompatible with the National Forest and its multiple use and management principals. The ranger in charge stated the project was not vital to National Security and above all, posed a fire hazard because flammable fuels would be used.
I couldn't find where Rhodes and Bloxsom tested their inventions. By 1967, ram jet engines were being tested at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. That year, the two men applied for a patent for ram jet powered crafts. Perhaps this was the kind of ram jet engine that could have been tested in Alaska?