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Photos from the World’s First Underwater Nuclear Explosion

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In in 1946, the United States conducted a series of nuclear weapon tests at Bikini Atoll in what’s known as Operation Crossroads. A total of two bombs were detonated to test the effects nuclear blasts had on naval warships. The second, named Baker, was the world’s first nuke to be detonated underwater. Due to the unique properties of underwater explosions, the Baker test produced a number of unique photographs that the world had never seen before.

Wikipedia states that “photographs of Baker are unique among nuclear detonation pictures”:

The blinding flash that usually obscures the target area took place underwater and was barely seen. The clear image of ships in the foreground and background gives a sense of scale. The large Wilson cloud and the vertical water column are distinctive Baker shot features, making the pictures easily identifiable.

The photograph above is an eerily beautiful image shot from 3.5 miles away showing the massive vertical water column. Check out this high-resolution version of the photo for a closer look.

Here’s a crop to give you a better sense of scale. That black thing on the right side of the column is one of the massive ships being lifted into the air:

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The blast lifted two million tons of water and sand into the air, creating a column 6,000 feet tall, 2,000 feet wide, and with walls 300 feet thick.

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The event was also captured on film:

There were many issues with cleaning up after the test, the life expectancy of people involved was reduced by an average of three months, and the test was later referred to as, “the world’s first nuclear disaster.” You can read up on the whole operation in detail on its Wikipedia article.