Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Bombs and Otters

April 17th, 2009 · 3 Comments


There’s such a wealth of fascinating tidbits in this National Nuclear Security Administration archive, it’s hard to know where to begin. Many of the goodies, such as this mind-blowing clip from Operation Castle, will already be familiar to students of atomic-testing history. But others are of a much rarer nature, and some were declassified just last month. The whole catalogue is worth a scan, starting with the two clips from Amchitka, an Aleutian Island where the military conducted three might underground tests between 1965 and 1971.

The clip of the testing itself shows the whole process, from lowering the bombs beneath the ground to the radioactive aftermath. (I wonder what happened to that poor bloke charged with checking out the scene mere moments after the explosion—did that white safety suit really help?) Then there’s this curio, a PR flick about the relocation of Amchitka’s sea otters prior to the second test. I wonder if there’s a similar film that recounts what happened to Amchitka’s human inhabitants, as well as those of surrounding islands.

Much more on Amchitka’s radioactive legacy here. Makes you wonder whether the military was genuinely naive about the long-term impact of underground testing, or just didn’t give a hoot about somewhere so remote.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Gramsci

    “Mr. McClure, are those sea otters in danger?”
    “Don’t be silly, Timmy! They’re not really ‘sea’ otters at all, since they are perfectly comfortable swimming in fresh water.”…

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    I have to say, the sea-otter film is much more entertaining than Locker Room Towel Fight: The Blinding of Larry Driscoll.

  • Jordan

    Probably some of both. Given what happened in the Castle Bravo and Castle Romeo shoots, they should have thought “Wow, we really messed up. Maybe we should be a bit more careful from now on.” Instead, the attitude seems to have been more along the lines of “Hey, we got away with those. Apparently no one’s going to give us a hard time if we irradiate people.”

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