Nuclear explosions at Bikini Atoll: the impact is felt 73 years later

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Naval History and Heritage Command

Image caption

Atomic bomb test “Baker”

This happened on 25 July 1946 at Bikini Atoll. In that day there has passed the fifth test of the atomic bomb, but the first explosion was underwater.

We’ve all seen the footage: a huge mushroom rising over the Pacific ocean, and then the shock wave absorbs in the path of the ships which were sacrificed to check what the power of the atom.

After 73 years, scientists went back to map the ocean floor.

The blast crater is visible so far. Preserved and twisted wreckage of ships.

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Naval History and Heritage Command

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The explosion was thrown high into the air, 2 million tons of water, sand and ground to pulp corals

“It was decided to choose the Bikini because of its remoteness and spacious and easily accessible lagoon,” – said the head of the research group Art Trembanis from the University of Delaware.

“As said comedian Bob hope once the war was over, we found one untouched by the war portion of the Earth and blew it to hell,” he added.

As part of operation “Crossroads” on the Atoll were two American tests “Abel” and “Baker”. 21-kiloton bomb “Baker”, named “Helen of Bikini”, was detonated at a depth of 27 m.

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University of Delaware CSHEL

Image caption

Topographic map of the ocean floor. Around the crater are visible shipwrecks

The explosion was thrown high into the air, 2 million tons of water, sand and ground to pulp corals.

Trembanis before the expedition believed that, despite the incredible power of the energy release, a large part trubchaninova explosion of the ocean floor should have been leveled with bottom sediment.

But the forecast did not materialize. His research team consisting of oceanographers, geologists, marine archeologists and engineers have identified a distinct decline.

With the help of sonar, they have made a topographical map of the seabed with an area of 800 m and a relief of about 10 m.

The copyright holder of the illustration
University of Delaware CSHEL

Image caption

A diver explores the guns of the USS Saratoga

“It looks as if Captain marvel hit the planet and left a dent in it”, – told Trembanis reporters gathered at the American geophysical Union for a presentation of the results of the research team.

“We wanted to raise the curtain and really show the place, – he told in interview Bi-bi-si. Only in the late 1980s – early 90s for the first time divers were able to explore the area. And even then, because of the restrictions they examined only a small number of ship wrecks”.

“We used advanced sonar technology; we were able to map the entire site. It’s like if you go in the night to the Grand canyon with a flashlight, or you can go a day and immediately all to see. We were able to see the location of the ships, how close they are to each other, and we saw that the crater is still there. Nature still reminds us of your wound caused by bomb explosion,” – said the scientist.

The copyright holder of the illustration
Arthur Trembanis

Image caption

Aft “Saratoga” is destroyed

It is noteworthy that the crater looks like covered with ruffle structure, something like rose petals. This indicates that the whole huge mass, raised in the air, crashing down in the water column and dispersed over the ocean bottom.

Part of the study was due to the need for better understanding of the continuing impact of the explosion on the environment. Although the radiation level decreased significantly, there is the problem of pollution from sunken ships.

These old ships sailing under the flags of the United States, Japan and Germany, were not prepared for flooding for the further creation of these artificial reefs. This would involve the complete dismantling their equipment.

The copyright holder of the illustration
University of Delaware CSHEL

Image caption

The map shows the relief structure of the crater from the explosion

The scenario tests, simulate military operations, it was necessary to leave the ships in a state of combat readiness. This, in particular, meant that the ships were fuel and even ammunition.

“When we made the map, I don’t even need to look at the dashboard to understand that we are next to the American aircraft carrier “Saratoga”, as I felt the smell of diesel fuel. He was very strong and it was easy to distinguish,” – said Trembanis.

“From the battleship “Nagato”, the flagship of the Japanese fleet, in which Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto planned the attack on pearl Harbor, leaking fuel that spread for miles,” the scientist said.

The ships continue to break down in the water, and the pollution from them can become an even greater problem, said Trembanis.