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Whiskey 601's Links to the Cold War Essay

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Prologue

Back in 1983, Whiskey 601 existed as an imaginary rectangle of ocean located approximately forty miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island. It was relative insignificant in size; a mere 20 miles wide and 10 miles high. However, it was its location, near the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, that made it significant.
Its official name on a nautical chart was Exercise Area W-601. However, it was more often referred to as “Whiskey Six Oh One”, or as Canadian Navy sailors had shortened it, “Whiskey”. Of course, the name gives the notion that there is a connection with libation; however, the curious title is simply due to the military’s desire to use the phonetic alphabet to spell out letters. This is why the “W” in W-601
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In sailor circles, the location is only noteworthy for its high rolling waves. At Whiskey 601, the giant swells are omnipresent and everlasting, and when you are trapped on a navy ship the situation is inescapable. Whiskey-601 was a seasick sailor's nightmare. In navy circles, even the strongest-stomached seamen would groan when they would be told that the ship was headed for “Whiskey”.
The reason for Whiskey’s high seas is relatively scientific. In seaman’s parlance, “fetch” is the distance wind travels to arrive at a certain location. It is a simple math ratio and the greater the fetch the higher the swell. In respect to Whiskey 601, the fetch can be huge. There is nothing blocking the westerly wind for thousands of miles, as there is no land mass all the way to Asia. You can imagine that each individual swell started off as a small ripple in the water thousands of miles away and an unrelenting west wind had driven it to become an 18 foot swell by the time it got to Whiskey 601.
So, was Whiskey 601 ever the place to be? When naval tactics were considered it certainly was. Its proximity to the entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the only passageway to the important port cities of Vancouver and Seattle, not to mention several major United States Navy bases made it very important.
In the days of the Cold War, this choke point was something the Soviet Navy would count upon. All maritime traffic
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