On 24 August 1968, France conducted the ‘Canopus’ nuclear test, the country’s first multi-stage thermonuclear test, at Fangataufa atoll in the South Pacific Ocean. It was the fifth nation after the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and China to cross the thermonuclear threshold.
‘Canopus’ was also France’s highest yielding test. With a 2.6 megaton yield, its explosive power was 200 times that of the Hiroshima bomb. The device weighed three tons and was suspended from a balloon at 520 meters. The fallout caused by this test contaminated large parts of Fangataufa atoll, leaving it off-limits for humans for six years, also affecting neighboring atolls.
Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves inspect the melted remnants of the 100-foot steel tower that held the Trinity bomb. Ensuring that the testing of a bomb with unknown strength would remain completely secret, the government chose a location that was so remote they had to import their water from over 150 miles away.
They actually gave the Soviets the proximity fuse (which is a huge leap in anti air). Through Venona we were reading their codes and knew of them. Their handler has since written a book on it confirming they were spies. The atomic component they gave the Soviets was rather minor but still, used to make the atomic bomb. After Venona was declassified it is difficult to say they were innocent because, well, you can read the messages from their handler with their confirmed code names.
* The trial judge agreed on the death penalty before the trial began. An eternal blot on American justice.
An underwater nuclear test being conducted during Operation Dominic, Pacific Coast off California; ca. May 11th 1962
This isn’t even the impressive part. The impressive part comes right afterwards…
Watch this video of the explosion:
Here is a video of the shot. It was the fifth largest nuclear shot by the US ever, at 9.3 megatons. It really does look like a sunrise/set (only at 1000x speed).
(I recently read Command and Control, would recommend it, covers a lot of the insanity regarding nuclear weapons. Apparently, up until the 80’s they were surprisingly easy to to set off, none of the PAL stuff you see in movies these days. Right after World War Twi they were still trying to figure out how to work nuclear war into scenario planning, it leads to a lot of crazy phrases like “limited nuclear war” or “progressive escalation” in terms of how to use the weapons not just against the soviets but also against weaker world powers. I think the USA did get a bit of a God complex for a bit, but once the cold war started it balanced it out to a more muted insanity and paranoia as they realized that just about any major power could drop a nuke and it might just set off the rest of the world, intentional or not…)
- Loading the Nuke Backpack:
Crossroads Baker nuclear explosion of July 25, 1946, test fired at 27m underwater. Photo taken from a tower on Bikini Island, 3.5 mi (5.6 km) away.
This is a picture from the 1946 detonation of a 23 kiloton nuclear bomb (same device design that was used to bomb Nagasaki) during operation Crossroads in Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. This tests was designated Baker denoting that it was the second in the series of 3 planned tests (but only two were carried out. The first being Able). It was the 3rd nuclear test ever conducted, and the 5th nuclear explosion in history.
The bomb was detonated 90 feet underwater amidst a fleet of decommissioned US and seized Japanese vessels. It was meant to simulate and document the effects of nuclear weapons in naval warfare.