Bunker Mentality

“…they shall beat their swords into plowshares” Isaiah 2:3-4

During the Cold War many nations dug holes into their lands, even tunnelling into mountains like frightened moles, to find safe places for their generals and governments to hide if the worst happened, the buttons were pushed and the general populations were unceremoniously fried. Who they thought they would have left to govern is anybody’s guess.

These “secret” bunkers are dotted around the country, often disguised – like the famous one, now open to the public, at Kelvedon Hatch which I thought was an appropriate name for the local village, which had as its entrance not a hatch but what was supposed to look like a farmhouse but most resembled… a standard MOD gatehouse. They have for the most part been abandoned now and sold off to any member of the public or bond villain in need of a secret lair.

Many have been turned into museums to educate future generations about the fear and madness we lived through, others have become homes, movie or game sets or glorified adventure playgrounds for grown-ups to play real-life versions of their video games.

Others have a new use that they seem pretty much designed for. Originally they were built to withstand both an explosive detonation, hence they’re physically strong; they were intended to support living humans so had electrical cabling, air conditioning and filtration and other utilities such as water supplies; then they had to withstand a by-product of a nuclear blast which is an electromagnetic pulse or EMP which tends to disagree with electrical equipment, especially computers. This was done by incorporating a metal cage into the outer structure, a Faraday Cage, which channels electrical energy around what’s inside it, like a car struck by lightning, protecting the occupants.

Theorists of future warfare have predicted that the best way to destabilise or even paralyse a country in the future would be to detonate a nuclear weapon above their enemy and simply wipe out their means of planning and communication – the computers and internet, basically. But it’s not just humans who can generate such destructive events, so can nature.

The sun ejects massive amounts of charged particles into space and we orbit through this flow, the solar wind, and it interacts with our planet, the particles are redirected around us and to the poles, causing aurorae in polar regions. These beautiful displays are also a hint of the destruction that can be caused when the Sun throws a tantrum, or perhaps burps more violently in our direction. A coronal mass ejection aimed at us throws an even larger amount of energetic particles at us and that can also affect electrical equipment – it knocks out satellites, overloads power grids and so on.

With all this in mind the organisations who operate the banks of server computers that store all our online data and channel it around the world have started reusing many of these old bunkers to house their equipment and they’re perfect for the job. Mostly underground, kept cool, shielded from electromagnetic interference and even secure from intruders. The internet itself grew from a military project, and now even much of The Cloud’s physical home will do too.