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SEAFARER Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) Submarine Command and Control Communications System records

Identifier: MSS-249

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of materials relating to the Department of the Navy's Project ELF program, Seafarer Program, and Project Sanguine (1971-1989). SEAFARER was a Department of the Navy communications system designed to provide highly reliable command and control communications that were principally for use by the Submarine Forces.

Series 1 - Correspondence (1977-1989). 1 folder. Arranged in chronological order. This series consists of correspondence relating to the ELF Program and copies of Distribution/Mailing Lists for materials.

Series 2 - ELF Project Reports (1973-1981). 14 folders. Arranged by Subject. This series contains reports explaining the development, design, and need for the ELF project. It also contains materials relating to the research performed to identify and measure environmental effects, biological effects, and ecological effects of the areas under review for the ELF system.

Series 3 - Ecological Monitoring Program Reports (1982-1985, 1988). 18 folders. Arranged in chronological order. This series consists of compilations of annual reports of the Ecological Monitoring Program covering the years 1982 through 1985 and 1988.

Series 4 - House of Representatives/Senate Reports (1976-1979). 7 folders. Arranged in numerical order. This series consists of copies of reports generated by the U. S. House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate in regards to funding appropriations and construction of the ELF system.

Series 5 - Project Sanguine Reports (1972-1975). 12 folders. Arranged in chronological order. This series consists of reports generated as part of the ELF systems Project Sanguine. These reports include information on telephone intereference, environmental impact, voltage interference, and a copy of a presentation given by Karl Mess in 1974. Also included in this series are reports produced during the analysis and research of the area under review for Project Sanguine. These reports contain historical and cultural data of the area, soil, surface geologic, surface water, and vegetation data that was gathered during the research period.

Series 6 - Seafarer Program Reports (1975-1977, 1983-1984). 40 folders. Arranged by subject. This series consists of nine files and two sub-series. The subseries "Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Site Selection and Test Operations" contains a twelve volume Draft EIS report dated February 1977 and supporting materials and a seven volume Final EIS report dated December 1977. The subseries "Site Survey Final Reports" contains copies of site surveys which include data maps for the Seafarer Construction and referencing K. I. Sawyer AFB, Upper Michigan, and the Michigan Region dated April and July 1976. The remaining items in this series cover the biologic effects of electric and magnetic fields associated with Seafarer, a corridor analysis report, and reports on the electromagnetic field intensity near Clear Lake, WI and Republic, MI. Also included in this series are three volumes of reports on public hearings held in Lansing and Marquette, Michigan in 1977.


  • 1971-1989

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions. Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from the SEAFARER Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) Submarine Command and Control Communications System records must be obtained from the Michigan Technological University Archives.


ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) communications systems were considered by the Department of the Navy during the 1950s through the 1980s. Due to the technical difficulty of building an ELF transmitter, only the U.S. and the Russian Navy owned such systems. The ELF system had three separate programs that were under consideration during this period: SEAFARER (Surface ELF Antenna for Addressing Remotely Employed Receivers), SANGUINE, and SHELF (Super Hard ELF). All three communications systems used the same ELF frequency band. ELF systems transmitted command and control messages to Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) Submarines and to other U.S. forces. Message transmission in the ELF frequency range provided for virtually worldwide coverage from a single Continental United States (CONUS) based transmitter by taking advantage of the low atmospheric and seawater attentuations at these frequencies. Extremely Low Frequency radio signal in the 3-300Hz range are considered useful for one-way communications between a ground based location and submarines at sea around the world. These submarine forces could be submersed in several hundred feet of water, whether on patrol or cruising, and still receive the signal generated by the ELF communications system. ELF could penetrate the seawater and thus eliminate the previously dangerous need for the submarines to surface in order to receive vital communications.

SANGUINE was the initial project proposal to be built in support of the ELF communications system. According to the 5 May 1972 report written by Dr. Bodo Kruger for the Special Communications Project Office, Project Sanguine was the result of more than 15 years of research which places the start of the ELF developemental research as early as 1957. Sanguine operated in the 30-100Hz frequency band and was designed to deliver High Priority Operational Messages in a required delivery time after an attack of nuclear weapons. Sanguine was oversized, more than a hundred buried transmitters and 6,000 miles of underground cable covering 6,500 square mile, so that pre-attack messages could be delivered in a shorter time frame. Sanguine was designed so that if it was to be under direct attack, suffered damage, a decrease in power, or jammed messages would still be sent the only effect being it would increasing the message delivery time. The research showed that Sanguine could not be jammed completely, only the message delivery time would be increased. The budget needed to build, maintain, and operate the originally proposed project resulted in Sanguine not being approved.

SEAFARER, which would consist of three terrestrial transmitters and 2,400 miles of buried cable that would cover 4,700 square miles, was approved. After years of research and environmental impact studies there were two ELF facilities constructed along the Great Lakes Region. In 1977, a test facility referred to as Wisconsin Test Facility (WTF) was built in Clam Lake, Wisconsin. This facility would be upgraded to an active transmitter station and work in conjuction with the facility built in Republic, Michigan in 1980. The system was controversial, and was the target of public attacks, lawsuits, and protests throughout its operation. There were instances where protesters cut down transmission line poles which resulted in brief interruptions in operation. These protest were unsuccessful and in 1981, Seafarer was upgraded with the installation of new wiring at K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base, Michigan, which incorporated operational VLF (Very Low Frequency) into the Command, Control and Communications system. These upgrades allowed for combined communications efforts with the facilities located at Clam Lake, Republic, and K. I. Sawyer AFB.

In 2004, the Navy shut down the transmitters at Clam Lake, Wisconsin, and Republic, Michigan, with the explanation that VLF communication systems had improved to the point that the ELF system was unnecessary.


3.5 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged into six series.

Series 1 - Correspondence is arranged in chronological order.

Series 2 - ELF Project Reports is arranged by subject.

Series 3 - Ecological Monitoring Program Reports is arranged in chronological order.

Series 4 - House of Representatives/Senate Reports is arranged in numerical order.

Series 5 - Project Sanguine Reports is arranged in chronological order.

Series 6 - Seafarer Program Reports is arranged by subject.

Custodial History

The materials in this collection were transferred to the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives by the Michigan Technological University Archives in Houghton, Michigan in 2012.
SEAFARER Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) Submarine Command and Control Communications System records
Glenda K. Ward
July 19, 2013
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Repository Details

Part of the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives Repository

Harden Learning Resources Center 126
1401 Presque Isle Ave
Marquette 49855 United States
906-227-1333 (Fax)


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