Watch Historic Footage of Atomic Test Explosions

Watch Historic Footage of Atomic Test Explosions

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Watch: Nuclear Missile Tests in Cold War Seen in Newly Declassified Videos

Newly declassified videos show never-before-seen footage of nuclear missile tests conducted by the U.S. during the Cold War.

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory released 62 new videos that show tests of atmospheric nuclear testing during the 1950s and 1960s, when the U.S. was entrenched in an ongoing conflict with the Soviet Union.

"We've received a lot of demand for these videos and the public has a right to see this footage," said LLNL nuclear weapon physicist Gregg Spriggs. "Not only are we preserving history, but we're getting much more consistent answers with our calculations.

Nuclear detonations are "tremendously extreme events," says the LLNL. To capture the footage, each test was recorded by at least 50 cameras, some in place to capture different vantage points and some providing backup in case a camera malfunctioned. Some cameras filmed the explosions in slow motion, going through hundreds of feet of film within a couple seconds to capture all the detail. Others captured frames more slowly, to record how mushroom clouds evolved over longer periods of time.

Much of the film has decayed over time, making the restoration a massive project. But researchers say it's important to see the footage to inform future tests.

"It's been 25 years since the last nuclear test, and computer simulations have become our virtual test ground," said Spriggs. "But those simulations are only as good as the data they're based on. Accurate data is what enables us to ensure the stockpile remains safe, secure and effective without having to return to testing."

One declassified video shows the so-called "Harlem event," a major test that took place 13,645 feet above the Christmas Island area of the Pacific Ocean on June 12, 1962. There are two pulses seen in the video as shockwaves form.

Operation Teapot, or the "Turk event" shows a massive fireball that took place 508 feet above the desert floor of the Nevada Test Site on March 7, 1955.

The "Bighorn event" shows a mushroom cloud on June 27, 1962. According to the LLNL, the speed at which the mushroom cloud rises and the height of the cloud can be used to calculate the strength of the explosion.

"These are devastating weapons, and I hope they're never used in war," said Spriggs. "But the stockpile has been an effective deterrent for more than 70 years. My hope is that this project can help to make sure it stays viable into the future."

Watch Declassified Nuclear Bomb Tests Online

The U.S. government conducted𧇒 atmospheric nuclear bomb tests before the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963 outlawed detonation of the big bombs in space, underwater or in the atmosphere. (After the treaty, the U.S. continued to test bombs underground until 1992.) While those initial open-air tests were, ostensibly, for research purposes, as it turns out the Energy Department and other agencies haven't been very good at keeping track of their data.

Related Content

According to a press release from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the 10,000 films made of those first tests conducted between 1945 and 1962 were kept by various agencies in classified vaults, slowly decomposing. That’s why, over the last five years, weapon physicist Greg Spriggs and colleagues at LLNL have been rounding up and digitizing the footage. 

So far, Spriggs has located 6,500 of the films and digitally scanned 4,200 of them. Of those, 750 have been declassified, and he's made㻀 of these films available to the public on YouTube. While he has a personal interest in the project—Sarah Zhang at Wired reports that as a child living at a naval base on Midway Island, he saw the high-altitude Starfish Prime bomb go off in 1962—Spriggs' primary motivation is to get more accurate data about the tests.

Several years ago, Spriggs was looking at simulations of nuclear explosions on his computer when he decided to take a closer look at some of the data underlying the models. What he found was that not only were the data and films scattered all over the place, but much of the data derived from those films was computed by hand and inaccurate.

That’s why he decided to begin the project tracking down, digitizing and reanalyzing the films. Digitizing the reels of cellulose hasn't been an easy task because most of the cellulose acetate film was not well-preserved. “You can smell vinegar when you open the cans, which is one of the byproducts of the decomposition process of these films,” Spriggs says in the press release. “We know that these films are on the brink of decomposing to the point where they'll become useless. The data that we're collecting now must be preserved in a digital form because no matter how well you treat the films, no matter how well you preserve or store them, they will decompose. They're made out of organic material, and organic material decomposes. So this is it. We got to this project just in time to save the data.”

Spriggs brought on board film historian Peter Kuran and film preservationist Jim Moye, who helped the Smithsonian preserve the Zapruder film, which shows the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The team uses the type of scanner Hollywood studios rely on to archive their aging films. But scanning the variety of films, which included 70, 35, 16 and 8 millimeter reels, turned out to be just the beginning.

Spriggs is also calculating the power yield of each blast to ensure the data from these tapes are accurate. During the Cold War era, this was a laborious process that took days going frame-by-frame. Now, thanks to computer programs, the task to determine the size of a blast’s shockwave has been significantly shortened. 

Thus far, Spriggs has reanalyzed between 400 and 500 of the films, finding that some calculations were as much as 20 percent off. While the new data will help researchers have more accurate data about nuclear explosions since the era of testing is over, Sprigg is a bit of peacenik when it comes to the project. “We hope that we would never have to use a nuclear weapon ever again. I think that if we capture the history of this and show what the force of these weapons are and how much devastation they can wreak, then maybe people will be reluctant to use them,” he says in the release.

Spriggs still has about 4,000 films to scan in, a project that will take several more years of steady work, Zane reports. After that he tells Zhang, he can retire.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

Watching Atomic Bombs Explode was a Big Tourist Attraction in Las Vegas

Come for a show, stay for the atomic bombs in Las Vegas! Vegas is a gaming and entertainment mecca famous for its notorious nickname Sin City. People go there to indulge, believing the old maxim that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” In other words, just about anything goes in Sin City, and no word travels to the folks back home about that bad behavior, whether you’re a huge star or a soon-to-be-married fellow whose bachelor party is held in a local hotel room. It’s as though Vegas exists in a moral vacuum, so no one worries about what they do while inside that vacuum.

It’s hard to imagine today, but one activity folks used to enjoy in Vegas had nothing to do with slot machines or the blackjack tables and everything to do with atomic bombs. From 1951 and continuing for several years, people watched nuclear tests light up the Vegas skyline, and reveled in the sight of these gargantuan bombs going off, irrespective of the danger they presented.

It’s a mindset that’s hard to fathom today, knowing what we know about the risks inherent in all things nuclear. But back then, local officials saw a business opportunity to exploit the risk and danger, and — true to Vegas’ nature — they seized that opportunity and made it work for the city. What unfolded was the strange scene of nuclear explosions becoming a tourist attraction in Las Vegas during the 50s.

The A-Bomb glow over Las Vegas looks like the sunrise as the blast brightens the sky. Getty Images

They even held a contest to find “Miss Atomic Bomb,” and chose a Jayne Mansfield-like pinup girl, Lee Merlin, who looked and posed just like the movie star to promote atomic-related events.

One gamer in the city back then said, “the best thing to happen to Vegas was the Atomic bomb,” according to one reporter who was there for the contest. While the rest of the country was living in fear of nuclear Armageddon, Vegas residents and tourists alike were throwing all-night viewing parties, to see the sky lit up by mushroom clouds during tests in the desert.

Dancer Gene Nelson performs what he calls the ‘Atom Antic’ on a mountain top not far from Las Vegas. A real atomic mushroom is rising in the background. Getty Images

Not everyone was enamored with the tests and the resulting bright lights, however. City officials handed out army-issue dog tags to children, lest their parents be unable to identify them after a failed nuclear test, or the real case scenario. So Vegas was this metaphorically split personality — half partying with abandon close to the tests, and the other experiencing mortal apprehension of potential consequences.

“They would light up the sky,” recalled Allen Palmer, executive director of the National Atomic Testing Museum in 2014. “It (the tests) turned night into day.”

11th Airborne division troops watch an atomic explosion at close range at the AEC’s testing grounds in the Las Vegas desert. Getty Images

Palmer acknowledged the kind of split personality of Vegas in those days. He said, “People were fascinated by the (mushroom) clouds, by this idea of unlocking the secrets of (the) atom. But there was absolutely an underlying fear — we were so close by.”

By “close by” Palmer means just 65 miles north west of the city, at the Nevada Proving Ground, as it was called. Back then, many tests were held above ground, a reckless move that only by luck, or grace, did not result in catastrophe from radiation fallout or something similar.

In addition to parties and a pinup girls, the city offered calendars publicizing viewing events, casinos and hotels offered “Atomic Cocktails,” and information about “Dawn Bomb Parties.” Such revelry seems incomprehensible now, perhaps, but people were not aware of the potentially devastating after effects of nuclear tests, particularly those done above ground.

That method came to a grinding halt in 1963, immediately after the Cuban Missile Crisis brought America to the very brink of disaster. Tests in plain sight, so to speak, were deemed too provocative and blatant, and cooler heads prevailed. Most tests thereafter were conducted underground, and continued for about four decades.

But for about 10 years, Las Vegas celebrated the country’s nuclear achievements by partying in the lights created by testing bombs. If it seems counter-intuitive to celebrate something so destructive as atomic bombs, well, that’s Las Vegas for you.

Tsar Bomba: The Largest Nuclear Explosion in History All Caught on Tape

Footage of that terrible test has been classified—until now thanks to a recently-uploaded video.

Here's What You Need to Remember: The video is an incredible piece of documentary footage. The video shows both the initial assembly of the enormous bomb, over six feet in diameter and about 60,000 pounds or over 27,000 kilograms, and the bomb’s ultimate explosion over the large Novaya Zemlya island in Russia’s far north.

After the Soviet Union tested the Tsar Bomba in 1961—the highest-yield nuclear device in history—the White House issued the following statement.

“Fear is the oldest weapon in history. Throughout the life of mankind, it has been the resort of those who could not hope to prevail by reason and persuasion. It will be repelled today, as it has been repelled in the past—not only the steadfastness of free men but by the power of the arms which men will use to defend their freedom.”

Footage of that terrible test has been classified—until now thanks to a recently-uploaded video.

The video is an incredible piece of documentary footage. The video shows both the initial assembly of the enormous bomb, over six feet in diameter and about 60,000 pounds or over 27,000 kilograms, and the bomb’s ultimate explosion over the large Novaya Zemlya island in Russia’s far north.

The enormous bomb was delivered by a specially modified Tu-95 bomber which had its bomb bay doors removed and replaced by larger, more robust doors. The Tu-95 also had its fuel tanks removed to increase the bomber’s payload capacity.

In a nod to pilot safety, the bomb was equipped with a giant parachute that would slow its descent in an effort to give the crew to fly to safety. The delivery plane and an observation plane were painted anti-flash white to try and minimize damage to the airframe due to the intense light that the explosion would generate. Despite these precautionary measures, the fate of the pilots was far from certain—they were given just a 50-50 chance of surviving the explosion.

But the pilots did survive. Though far enough away from the epicenter of the blast, their bomber lost about 1,000 meters in altitude after getting caught in the shockwave. Shortly after the explosion, a column of smoke and ash rose nearly forty miles into the sky. Richter scales around the world registered a 5.0 earthquake coming from the epicenter. Soldiers as far away as Norway could see the flash of the explosion, and radioactive fallout from the blast was widespread.

One of the camera operators in the observation plane gave the following hair-raising impression of the awesome explosion:

“The clouds beneath the aircraft and in the distance were lit up by the powerful flash. The sea of light spread under the hatch and even clouds began to glow and became transparent. At that moment, our aircraft emerged from between two cloud layers and down below in the gap a huge bright orange ball was emerging. The ball was powerful and arrogant like Jupiter. Slowly and silently it crept upwards. Having broken through the thick layer of clouds it kept growing. It seemed to suck the whole earth into it. The spectacle was fantastic, unreal, supernatural.”

Diplomatic fallout following the explosion was significant, especially from the United States and Scandinavian countries near the blast. Ultimately, it didn’t matter—the Tsar Bomba was much too large to ever be practical. City-sized targets in the United States were just too far away for Soviet bombers to reach without extensive refueling support and modifications to airframes to carry and drop such massive payloads.

Still, the Tsar Bomba did achieve one strategic objective for Moscow: shocking and surprising the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—and helped spur the 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a moratorium on nuclear tests underwater, in space, and in the atmosphere. Thankfully the bomb was never put into production.

Watch Rare, Newly Declassified Footage Of 62 Nuclear Explosions

A cinematographer films an atomic mushroom cloud in a project named "Operation Plumbbob" on July 19, 1957 in Yucca Flat,Colorado.The "Atomic Cinematographers", members of the United States Air Force's Lookout Mountain 1352d Photographic Squadron , then located in Hollywood, California, produced thousands of classified films for the Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission beginning in 1947. Photo: REUTERS

A set of 62 rare videos of nuclear weapons tests have been uploaded to YouTube by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The declassified footage of mushroom clouds was captured on film more than 50 years ago.

The Laboratory, a federally funded research facility, has undertaken a project to digitize the classified films for preservation and to reanalyze the explosions for more accurate testing data. Weapon physicist Greg Spriggs and Jim Moye, a film expert, have been tasked with getting the footage off of the celluloid film it was shot on before it rots away.

“It’s fascinating to watch film that hasn’t been seen in more than 50 years,” said Moye in a statement. “This may be our one and only chance to preserve this historical record. It’s critical that we capture as much of the data as possible. I truly feel like we’re preserving history.”

The films were shot between 1945 and 1962 when the United States conducted 210 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. These test exhibit the large mushroom clouds. The U.S. signed a treaty with the then Soviet Union in 1962 banning above-ground nuclear weapons tests. China was the last country to conduct an atmospheric nuclear weapon test in 1980, but North Korea has threatened one this year.

Spriggs estimated that there around 7,000 films in total and that the California Laboratory has scanned 4,500 of them. Around 750 of the films have been declassified and 64 of them were restored and uploaded to YouTube in March and another 62 were uploaded Thursday. Each nuclear test would be filmed with more than 50 cameras.

“We’ve received a lot of demand for these videos and the public has a right to see this footage,” said Spriggs in a statement. “Not only are we preserving history, but we’re getting much more consistent answers with our calculations.”

Atom Bomb [Joe Bonica's Movie of the Month]

"Survival Town" Atom Test, operation "Teapot"
Atomic Test, amazing films of H-Bomb
Actual footage of nuclear bomb testing, the scientists and military people involved in a the South Pacific and the American Southwest. Frighteningly slim and few precautions are taken with the lives of those people who jobs were to be present at the test sites. Film purports to prove that survival of nuclear attack is possible.

Bikini Atoll testing of the atomic bomb Navy crews watch from deck of ship

remote control Los Alamos director Dr. Holloway

crew straps on goggles bomb explodes

aerial shot shows ships immediately adjacent to the mushroom cloud

Mercury, Nevada test some tanks were less than a mile away
scene of utter devastation and annihilation

Operation Teapot Yucca Flat Nevada

9000 servicemen ready to take their places in trenches
soldiers dust each other off with brooms

"Demonstrating the importance of civil defense preparedness, the elaborate exercises proved survival is possible, offering new hope to all who live in the shadow of the atomic age."

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of energy the human race puts into destruction.

As a Vietnam era Veteran I use the VA twice a week for aquatherapy and had a discussion with other Veterans about this film and the ships that were used. One of them brought up the fact that at that time in history America was the biggest and best quality steel producers in the world.
. Was.
Now our biggest product is drug addicts and criminals.

You're hatred towards Christianity and misinformation about Christianity probably comes from you being apart of some fringe, radical Muslim group, or atheist/anti-theist group. I don't know. I can only guess your reasons. But, you're a deceiver, AND/OR you know NOTHING about Christianity.

May God have mercy on your soul, so you won't end up living (if it can be called,"living") with Satan, and everyone who follows him, when these End Times are done.

Bombs like these, are the worst inventions by mankind. The Antichrist is coming soon, and bombs like these, may be used at that time. BUT Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will return, and He will put an end to all the madness.

"For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."- Matthew 24:21-22,27-31

"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."
-Matthew 25:13

May God soften the hardened hearts.
Merry Christmas to all.

Interesting comments, some from people completely ignorant of historical facts. For instance, Japan had the bomb. What if they had also had the time to finish developing it, and shared the know-how with Germany? I doubt that any languages but German and Japanese would be spoken today. We won't even bother to discuss the ethnic *cleansing* that would have occurred across the globe by both the Nazis and Japan's warrior class.

Ever since the invention of the wheel, the discovery and use of nuclear power has been inevitable. With Man's predilection for self-destruction, the questions were only who would get it first and what would it be used for?

To be sure, the United States has promulgated its share of evil in the world, but the "Blame America First" and "Hate the Bushies" crowds are becoming quite tedious. Please do something about your own country's contributions before wagging self-righteous fingers at the "evil USA".

Post WWII, the United States did not enslave the world or commit global genocide as the Nazis would have. Were proper safety precautions taken by the US during testing, and did our scientists fully understand the implications of radiation? No - the science was new and we simply did not have enough data.

As residents of this planet, we know far more now, and I doubt any sane people would choose to re-visit nuclear holocaust on any culture - but therein lies the problem. Sanity is in short supply these days, and any fringe group with the technical expertise can and probably will attack individuals or perhaps the entire globe with nuclear, chemical, or biological WMDs.

Again, I think this is inevitable - unless we somehow learn to live with each other.

Nuke 'em until they glow, glow, glow!

One of the points they were trying to make was that the Atom Bomb was SAFE to innocent bystanders when used properly. Sadly, they were horribly, horribly wrong. Of course, they also said that about Reaganomics (if you're too young to get that, look it up yourself, I'm busy).

The intials tests (and remember the technology of the time!) indicated that at a certain distance, you would be safe from the bomb's radiation. Instead, many of the people who were there for the making of this film died of radiation related illnesses. During these tests there were "viewing areas" for bigwigs, both military and civilian. Some of them were way too close. Guess what happened to those "viewers"?

A similar thing happened to actors and film crew who worked on a western in what was supposed to be a "safe" area in the Nevada desert near a nuclear testing site in the early 1950's. The mortality rate among those present was quite high.

To read about the impact on the inhabitants of Bikini and other Marshall islands, go to:

But of course, we were the GOOD GUYS - how could it be wrong?

So typical of humans: they create the most devistating force ever, far beyond anything anyone had ever imagined, and thought they could make it their servant, obediant and harmless. Silly mortals.

You bright kids who are going to come up with the next bit of devastating technology take note.

This is a great movie. Really shows the power of nulcear weapons.

But as for some of the other reviews of this film: Being in the area of a small nuclear explosion (and these were small) is not the healthiest thing in the world, but it's not necessarly super-dangerous either. Most of the radiation from the blast is atenuated to safe levels a few miles away. A greater concern is the fallout, which if inhaled or ingested could colect radioisotopes in the body and cause cancer or other problems. Not eating and wearing breathing masks as well as not staying in the area too long are good preventitive measures.

Most of the radioisotopes are short lived, and it becomes safe to even venture to ground zero for a short period of time within days.

Today the Nevada Test Site and the Paciffic Proving grounds (including bikini atoll) are completely safe to visit, even with strict government standards. They even offer scuba diving at bikini atoll. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were rebuilt. The Chenobel accident in the USSR released over a thousand times more fallout than a nuclear explosion does.

Keep in mind: Edward Teller wittnessed several nuclear blasts and lived to almost 100. Glenn Seaborg saw a few and lived into his 90's. Leslie Groves lived into his 80's. Most of the scientists lived long lives.

As long as proper precautions are taken there is no need for alarm.

For more information on radiation saftey I suggest visiting

Many of these people in the movie became very ill and died becasue of the exposure to radiation! This film graphically depicts the vast unconcern of those in authority for the soldiers, who were obviously regarded as mere tools, unworthy of consideration.

Around the time of the first Gulf War, President Bush 1 was reported to have referred to individual soldiers as "OFUs", meaning "One Fodder Unit". That evil sensibility is very much on display in this movie.


Fall of Antwerp Edit

On 4 April 1585, during the Spanish siege of Antwerp, a fortified bridge named "Puente Farnesio" [a] had been built by the Spanish on the River Scheldt. The Dutch launched four large hellburners (explosive fire ships filled with gunpowder and rocks) to destroy the bridge and thereby isolate the city from reinforcement. Three of the hellburners failed to reach the target, but one containing 4 tons of explosive [4] struck the bridge. It did not explode immediately, which gave time for some curious Spaniards to board it. There was then a devastating blast that killed 800 Spaniards on the bridge, [5] throwing bodies, rocks and pieces of metal a distance of several kilometres. A small tsunami arose in the river, the ground shook for kilometres around and a large, dark cloud covered the area. The blast was felt as far as 35 kilometres (22 mi) away in Ghent, where windows vibrated.

Wanggongchang Explosion Edit

Around nine in the morning of 30 May 1626, an explosion at the Wanggongchang Armory in Ming-era Beijing, China, destroyed almost everything within an area of two square kilometres (0.77 sq mi) surrounding the site. The estimated death toll was 20,000. About half of Beijing, from Xuanwumen Gate in the South to today's West Chang'an Boulevard in the North, was affected. Guard units stationed as far away as Tongzhou, nearly 40 kilometres (25 mi) away, reported hearing the blast and feeling the earth tremble. [6]

Great Torrington, Devon Edit

On 16 February 1646, 80 barrels (5.72 tons) of gunpowder were accidentally ignited by a stray spark during the Battle of Torrington in the English Civil War, destroying the church in which the magazine was located and killing several Royalist guards and a large number of Parliamentarian prisoners who were being held there. The explosion effectively ended the battle, bringing victory to the Parliamentarians. It narrowly missed killing the Parliamentarian commander, Sir Thomas Fairfax. Great damage was caused.

Delft Explosion Edit

About 40 tonnes of gunpowder exploded on 12 October 1654, destroying much of the city of Delft in the Netherlands. Over a hundred people were killed and thousands were injured.

Destruction of the Parthenon Edit

On 26 September 1687, the Parthenon, hitherto intact, was partially destroyed when an Ottoman ammunition bunker inside was struck by a Venetian mortar. 300 Turkish soldiers were killed in the explosion.

Fort Augusta Explosion Edit

Fort Augusta was originally an ocean side fortress in Kingston, Jamaica built by the English in the 1740s to provide the main defense for Kingston Harbour’s west side. In 1763 lightning struck the fort and its three thousand barrels of gunpowder causing an explosion that broke windows 17 miles away and killed three hundred people. The shocks created a crater which had to be filled before reconstruction could begin.

Brescia Explosion Edit

In 1769, the Bastion of San Nazaro in Brescia, Italy was struck by lightning. The resulting fire ignited 90 tonnes of gunpowder being stored, and the subsequent explosion destroyed one-sixth of the city and killed 3,000 people.

Leiden gunpowder disaster Edit

On 12 January 1807, a ship carrying hundreds of barrels of black powder exploded in the town of Leiden in the Kingdom of Holland. The disaster killed 151 people and destroyed over 200 buildings in the town.

Siege of Almeida Edit

On 26 August 1810, in Almeida, Portugal, during the Peninsular War phase of the Napoleonic Wars, French Grande Armée forces commanded by Marshal André Masséna laid siege to the garrison the garrison was commanded by British Brigadier General William Cox. A shell made a chance hit on the medieval castle, within the star fortress, which was being used as the powder magazine. It ignited 4,000 prepared charges, which in turn ignited 68,000 kilograms (68 t) of black powder and 1,000,000 musket cartridges. The ensuing explosions killed 600 defenders and wounded 300. The medieval castle was razed to the ground and sections of the defences were damaged. Unable to reply to the French cannonade without gunpowder, Cox was forced to capitulate the following day with the survivors of the blast and 100 cannon. The French losses during the operation were 58 killed and 320 wounded.

Fort York magazine explosion Edit

On 27 April 1813, the magazine of Fort York in York, Ontario (now Toronto) was fired by retreating British troops during an American invasion. Thirty thousand pounds (14,000 kg) of gunpowder and thirty thousand cartridges exploded sending debris, cannon and musket balls over the American troops. Thirty-eight soldiers, including General Zebulon Pike, the American commander, were killed and 222 were wounded.

Battle of Negro Fort Edit

On 27 July 1816, a fort built in the War of 1812 by the British Army at Prospect Bluff in Spanish West Florida, and occupied by about 330 maroons, Seminole, and Choctaw, was attacked by Andrew Jackson's navy as part of the First Seminole War. There was an exchange of cannon fire the first red-hot cannonball fired by the navy entered the fort's powder magazine, which exploded. [7] The explosion, heard more than 100 miles (160 km) away, [8] destroyed the entire post which was initially supplied with "three thousand stand of arms, from five to six hundred barrels of powders and a great quantity of fixed ammunition, shot[s], shells". [9] About 270 men, women and children lay dead. [10] General Edmund P. Gaines later said that the "explosion was awful and the scene horrible beyond description." Reports mention no American military casualties. [7]

Siege of Multan Edit

On 30 December 1848, in Multan during the Second Anglo-Sikh War, a British mortar shell hit 180 tonnes of gunpowder stored in a mosque, causing an explosion and many casualties. [11]

Great fire of Newcastle and Gateshead Edit

The 6 October 1854 great fire of Newcastle and Gateshead, UK, was occasioned by an explosion of a bond warehouse on the quayside, which rained masonry and flaming timbers across wide areas of both cities, and left a crater with a depth of 40 feet (12 m) and 50 feet (15 m) in diameter. The explosion was heard at locations up to 40 miles (64 km) away. 53 people died, and 400 to 500 were injured. [12]

Agios Ioannis Church Explosion Edit

On 6 November 1856 lightning struck 3,000 to 6,000 hundredweight (roughly 150-300 tonnes) of gunpowder stored by the Ottoman Empire in the bell tower of the Agios Ioannis church near the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes in Rhodes, triggering a blast that destroyed large parts of the city and killed 4,000 people. [13] [14]

The Battle of the Crater during the siege of Petersburg, Virginia Edit

During the American Civil War at 4:44 a.m. on July 30, 1864 the Union Army of the Potomac besieging the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg, Virginia detonated a mine containing 320 kegs of gunpowder, totaling 8,000 pounds (3,600 kg) under the confederate entrenchments. The explosion killed 278 Confederate soldiers of the 18th and 22nd South Carolina regiments [15] and created a crater 170 feet (52 m) long, 100 to 120 feet (30 to 37 m) wide, and at least 30 feet (9 m) deep. After the explosion, attacking Union forces charged into the crater instead of around its lip. Trapped in the crater of their own making, the Union forces were easy targets for the Confederate soldiers once they recovered from the shock of the explosion. Union forces suffered 3798 casualties (killed, wounded, or captured) vs 1491 total losses for the Confederates. The Union forces failed to break through the Confederate defenses despite the success of the mine. The Battle of the Crater (as it came to be called) was thus a victory for the Confederacy. However, the siege continued.

Fort Fisher Magazine explosion Edit

In 1865 after the Union Army captured Fort Fisher, North Carolina, the accidental explosion of the fort magazine resulted in an estimated 200 persons killed.

Mobile magazine explosion Edit

On 25 May 1865, in Mobile, Alabama, in the United States, an ordnance depot (magazine) exploded, killing 300 people. This event occurred just six weeks after the end of the American Civil War, during the occupation of the city by victorious Federal troops.

Flood Rock explosion Edit

On 10 October 1885 in New York City, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers detonated 300,000 pounds (150 t) of explosives on Flood Rock, annihilating the island, in order to clear the Hell Gate tidal strait for the benefit of East River shipping traffic. [17] The explosion sent a geyser of water 250 feet in the air [18] the blast was felt as far away as Princeton, New Jersey. [17] The explosion has been described as "the largest planned explosion before testing began for the atomic bomb". [18] Rubble from the detonation was used in 1890 to fill the gap between Great Mill Rock and Little Mill Rock, merging the two into a single island, Mill Rock. [17]

Explosion of steamship Cabo Machichaco Edit

On 3 November 1893, in Santander, Spain, the steamship Cabo Machichaco caught fire when she was docked. The ship was loaded with sulfuric acid and 51 tons of dynamite from Galdácano, Basque Country, but authorities were unaware of this. Firefighters and crewmen from other ships boarded Cabo Machichaco to help fight the fire, while local dignitaries and a large crowd of people watched from the shore. At 5 pm, a huge explosion destroyed nearby buildings and created a huge wave that washed over the seafront. Pieces of iron and rubbish were thrown as far as Peñacastillo, 8 km (5 mi) away, where a person was killed by the falling debris. 590 people were killed, and between 500 and 2,000 were injured. [19] [20]

Braamfontein explosion Edit

On 19 February 1896, an explosives train at Braamfontein station in Johannesburg, loaded with between 56 and 60 tons of blasting gelatine for the gold mines of the Witwatersrand and having been standing for three and a half days in searing heat, was struck by a shunting train. The load exploded, leaving a crater in the Braamfontein rail yard 60 metres (200 ft) long, 50 metres (160 ft) wide and 8 metres (26 ft) deep. The explosion was heard up to 200 kilometres (120 mi) away. 75 people were killed, and more than 200 injured. Surrounding suburbs were destroyed, and roughly 3,000 people lost their homes. Almost every window in Johannesburg was broken. [21]

USS Maine Edit

On 15 February 1898, more than 5 tons of gunpowder exploded on the USS Maine in the Havana Harbor, Spanish Cuba, killing 266 on board. Spanish investigations found that it was likely started by spontaneous combustion of the adjacent coal bunker or accidental ignition of volatile gases. The 1898 US Navy investigation laid the blame on a mine, which led to public outrage in the United States and support for the Spanish–American War. [22]

DuPont Powder Mill explosion, Fontanet, Indiana Edit

On 15 October 1907, approximately 40,000 kegs of powder exploded in Fontanet, Indiana, killing between 50 and 80 people, and destroying the town. The sound of the explosion was heard over 200 miles (320 km) away, with damage occurring to buildings 25 miles (40 km) away. [23]

DuPont Powder Mill Explosion, Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin Edit

On 9 March 1911, the village of Pleasant Prairie and neighboring town of Bristol, 4 miles away, were leveled by the explosion of five magazines holding 300 tons of dynamite, 105,000 kegs of black blasting powder, and five railroad cars filled with dynamite housed at a 190-acre DuPont blasting powder plant. A crater 100 ft deep was left where the plant stood. Several hundred people were injured. The plant was closed at the time, so deaths were light, with only three plant employees being killed, E. S. "Old Man" Thompson, Clarence Brady and Joseph Flynt, and Elgin, Illinois resident Alice Finch, who died of shock. Most buildings in a 5-mile radius were rendered flat or uninhabitable. The explosion was widely felt within a radius of 130 miles, and largely thought to be an earthquake. Residents in nearby Lake County, Illinois saw the fireball and remembering the Peshtigo fire fled their houses, jumping into Lake Michigan. Police in Chicago scoured the streets, looking for the site of a bombing. Windows were shattered as far away as Madison, Wisconsin, a distance of some 85 miles. The explosion was reportedly heard up to 500 miles away. A DuPont spokesman was reported on as being perplexed by the coverage of the blast, quoted as saying "explosions occur every day in steel mills, flouring mills and grain elevators with hardly a line in the paper." [24] [25] [26]

Alum Chine explosion Edit

Alum Chine was a Welsh freighter (out of Cardiff) carrying 343 tons of dynamite for use during construction of the Panama Canal. She was anchored off Hawkins Point, near the entrance to Baltimore Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland. She exploded on 7 March 1913, killing over 30, injuring about 60, and destroying a tugboat and two barges. Most accounts describe two distinct explosions. [27]

HMS Princess Irene at Sheerness Edit

On 27 May 1915, the converted minelayer HMS Princess Irene suffered a blast. Wreckage was thrown up to 20 miles (30 km), a collier ship one-half mile (800 m) away had its crane blown off and a crew member killed by a fragment weighing 70 pounds (30 kg). A child ashore was killed by another fragment. A case of butter was found six miles (10 km) away. A total of 352 people were killed but one crew member survived, with severe burns. The ship had been loaded with 300 naval mines containing more than 150 tons of high explosive. An inquiry blamed faulty priming, possibly by untrained personnel.

Faversham explosion Edit

On 2 April 1916, an explosion ripped through the gunpowder mill at Uplees, near Faversham, Kent, when 200 tons of TNT ignited. 105 people died in the explosion. The munitions factory was next to the Thames estuary, and the explosion was heard across the estuary as far away as Norwich, Great Yarmouth, and Southend-on-Sea, where domestic windows were blown out and two large plate-glass shop windows shattered.

Battle of Jutland Edit

On 31 May 1916, three British Grand Fleet battlecruisers were destroyed by cordite deflagrations initiated by armour-piercing shells fired by the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet. At 16:02 HMS Indefatigable was cut in two by deflagration of the forward magazine and sank immediately with all but two of her crew of 1,019. German eyewitness reports and the testimony of modern divers suggest all her magazines exploded. The wreck is now a debris field. At 16:25 HMS Queen Mary was cut in two by detonation of the forward magazine and sank with all but 21 of her crew of 1,283. As the rear section capsized it also exploded. At 18:30 HMS Invincible was cut in two by detonation of the midships magazine and sank in 90 seconds with all but six of her crew. 1,026 men died, including Rear Admiral Hood. An armoured cruiser, HMS Defence, was a fourth ship to suffer an explosive deflagration at Jutland with at least 893 men killed. The rear magazine was seen to detonate followed by more explosions as the cordite flash travelled along an ammunition passage beneath her broadside guns. Eyewitness reports suggest that HMS Black Prince may also have suffered an explosion as she was lost during the night action with all hands — 857 men. British reports say she was seen to blow up. German reports speak of the ship being overwhelmed at close range and sinking. Finally, during the confused night actions in the early hours of 1 June, the German pre-dreadnought SMS Pommern was hit by one, or possibly two, torpedoes from the British destroyer HMS Onslaught, which detonated one of Pommern ' s 17-centimetre (6.7 in) gun magazines. The resulting explosion broke the ship in half and killed the entire crew of 839 men.

Mines on the first day of the Somme Edit

On the morning of 1 July 1916, a series of 19 mines of varying sizes was blown to start the Battle of the Somme. The explosions constituted what was then the loudest human-made sound in history, and could be heard in London. The largest single charge was the Lochnagar mine south of La Boisselle with 60,000 lb (27 t) of ammonal explosive. The mine created a crater 300 ft (90 m) across and 90 ft (30 m) deep, with a lip 15 ft (5 m) high. The crater is known as Lochnagar Crater after the trench from where the main tunnel was started.

Black Tom explosion Edit

On 30 July 1916, sabotage by German agents caused 1,000 short tons (910 t) of explosives bound for Europe, along with another 50 short tons (45 t) on Johnson Barge No. 17, to explode in Jersey City, New Jersey, a major dock in New York Harbor. There were few deaths, but about 100 injuries. Damage included buildings on Ellis Island, parts of the Statue of Liberty, and much of Jersey City.

Silvertown explosion Edit

On 19 January 1917, parts of Silvertown in East London were devastated by a TNT explosion at the Brunner-Mond munitions factory. 73 people died and hundreds were injured. The blast was felt across London and Essex and was heard over 100 mi (160 km) away, with the resulting fires visible for 30 mi (50 km).

Quickborn explosion Edit

On 10 February 1917, a chain reaction in an ammunition plant "Explosivstoffwerk Thorn" in Quickborn-Heide (northern Germany) killed at least 115 people (some sources say over 200 people), mostly young female workers. [28] [29]

Plzeň explosion Edit

Škoda Works in Bolevec, Plzeň, was the biggest ammunition plant in Austria-Hungary. A series of explosions on 25 May 1917 killed 300 workers. [30] This event inspired Karel Čapek to write the novel Krakatit (1922).

Mines in the Battle of Messines Edit

On 7 June 1917, a series of large British mines, containing a total of over 455 tons of ammonal explosive, was detonated beneath German lines on the Messines-Wytschaete ridge. The explosions created 19 large craters, killed about 10,000 German soldiers, and were heard as far away as London and Dublin. Determining the power of explosions is difficult, but this was probably the largest planned explosion in history until the 1945 Trinity atomic weapon test, and the largest non-nuclear planned explosion until the 1947 British Heligoland detonation (below). The Messines mines detonation killed more people than any other non-nuclear man-made explosion in history.

Halifax explosion Edit

On 6 December 1917, SS Imo and SS Mont-Blanc collided in the harbour of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Mont-Blanc carried 2,653 tonnes of various explosives, mostly picric acid. After the collision the ship caught fire, drifted into town, and exploded. 1,950 people were killed and much of Halifax was destroyed. An evaluation of the explosion's force puts it at 2.9 kilotons of TNT (12 TJ). [31] Halifax historian Jay White in 1994 concluded "Halifax Harbour remains unchallenged in overall magnitude as long as five criteria are considered together: number of casualties, force of blast, radius of devastation, quantity of explosive material, and total value of property destroyed."

Chilwell Munitions Factory Explosion Edit

On 1 July 1918, the National Shell Filling Factory No 6 (Chilwell, near Nottingham, England) was partly destroyed when 8 tons of TNT exploded in the dry mix part of the factory. Approximately 140 workers – mainly young women, known as the 'Chilwell Canaries' because contact with TNT turned their skin yellow – were killed, though the true number has never been satisfactorily established. An unknown number of people were injured, though estimates place the figure around 250. Because of the sensitivity of the subject, reports of the explosion were censored until after the Armistice. The cause of the explosion was never officially established, though present-day authorities on explosives consider it was due to a combination of factors: an exceptionally hot day, high production demands and lax safety precautions.

Split Rock explosion Edit

On 2 July 1918, a munitions factory near Syracuse, New York, exploded after a mixing motor in the main TNT building overheated. The fire rapidly spread through the wooden structure of the main factory. Approximately 1–3 tons of TNT were involved in the blast, which levelled the structure and killed 50 workers (conflicting reports mention 52 deaths).

T. A. Gillespie Company Shell Loading Plant explosion Edit

On 4 October 1918, an ammunition plant — operated by the T. A. Gillespie Company and located in the Morgan area of Sayreville in Middlesex County, New Jersey — exploded and triggered a fire. The subsequent series of explosions continued for three days. The facility, said to be one of the largest in the world at the time, was destroyed, along with more than 300 buildings forcing reconstruction of South Amboy and Sayreville. Over 100 people died in this accident. [32] Over a three-day period, a total of 12,000,000 pounds (5,400 t) of explosives were destroyed. [33]

Oppau explosion Edit

On 21 September 1921, a BASF silo filled with 4,500 tonnes of fertilizer exploded, killing around 560, largely destroying Oppau, Germany, and causing damage more than 30 km (19 mi) away.

Nixon Nitration Works disaster Edit

On 1 March 1924, an explosion destroyed a building in Nixon, New Jersey, used for processing ammonium nitrate. The explosion touched off fires in surrounding buildings in the Nixon Nitration Works that contained other highly flammable materials. The disaster killed 20 and destroyed 40 buildings.

Leeudoringstad explosion Edit

On 17 July 1932, a train carrying 320 to 330 tons of dynamite from the De Beers factory at Somerset West to the Witwatersrand exploded and flattened the small town of Leeudoringstad in South Africa. Five people were killed and 11 injured in the sparsely-populated area.

Neunkirchen gas detonation Edit

On 10 February 1933, a gas storage in Neunkirchen, Territory of the Saar Basin, detonated during maintenance work. The detonation could be heard at 124 miles (200 km) distance. The death toll was 68, and 160 were injured.

New London School explosion Edit

On 18 March 1937, a natural gas leak caused an explosion, destroying the London School of New London, Texas. The disaster killed more than 295 students and teachers, making it the deadliest school disaster in American history. Letters of support were sent from around the world, including one telegram from Adolf Hitler.

Hirakata ammunition dump explosion Edit

On 1 March 1939, Warehouse No. 15 of the Imperial Japanese Army's Kinya ammunition dump in Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, Japan, suffered a catastrophic explosion, the sound of which could be heard throughout the Keihan area. Additional explosions followed over the next few days as the depot burned, for a total of 29 explosions by 3 March. Japanese officials reported that 94 people died, 604 were injured, and 821 houses were damaged, with 4,425 households in all suffering the effects of the explosions. [34] [35]

Pluton Edit

On 13 September 1939, the French cruiser Pluton exploded and sank while offloading naval mines in Casablanca, in French Morocco. The explosion killed 186 men, destroyed three nearby armed trawlers, and damaged nine more.

Hercules Powder Plant Edit

On 12 September 1940, nearly 300,000 pounds of gunpowder exploded at the Hercules Company in the Kenvil area of Roxbury, New Jersey. At least 51 people were killed, over 100 injured, and twenty buildings flattened. It remains unclear if this was an industrial accident, or sabotage by pro-IRA or pro-Nazi factions.

SS Clan Fraser Edit

On 6 April 1941, SS Clan Fraser was moored in Piraeus Harbour, Greece. Three German Luftwaffe bombs struck her, igniting 350 tonnes of TNT a nearby barge carried a further 100 tonnes which also detonated. Royal Navy ships HMS Ajax and HMS Calcutta attempted to tow her out of harbour and succeeded in getting beyond the breakwater, after the tow line had broken three times. She then exploded, leveling large areas of the port. This was witnessed by post-war author Roald Dahl, who was piloting a Hawker Hurricane fighter plane for the Royal Air Force.

HMS Hood Edit

On 24 May 1941, HMS Hood sank in three minutes after the stern magazine detonated during the Battle of the Denmark Strait. The wreck has been located in three pieces, suggesting additional detonation of a forward magazine. There were only three survivors from the crew of 1,418.

HMS Barham Edit

On 25 November 1941, HMS Barham was sunk by the German submarine U-331 862 crew lost. The main magazines explosion was captured on film by a Pathé News cameraman on board the nearby HMS Valiant.

Smederevo Fortress explosion Edit

During World War II, German invading forces in Serbia used Smederevo Fortress for ammunition storage. On 5 June 1941 it exploded, [36] blasting through the entirety of Smederevo and reaching settlements as far as 10 km (6.2 mi) away. Much of the southern wall of the fortress was destroyed, the nearby railway station, packed with people, was blown away, and most of the buildings in the city were turned into debris. Around 2,500 people died in the explosion, and half of the inhabitants were injured [37] (approximately 5,500).

SS Surrey Edit

On the night of 10 June 1942, the German submarine U-68 torpedoed the 8,600-ton British freighter Surrey in the Caribbean Sea. Five thousand tons of dynamite in the cargo detonated after the ship sank. The shock wave lifted U-68 out of the water as if she had suffered a torpedo hit, and both diesel engines and the gyrocompass were disabled. [38]

SS Hatimura Edit

On the night of 3 November 1942, torpedoes detonated the ammunition cargo of the 6,690-ton British freighter Hatimura. Both the freighter and attacking submarine U-132 were destroyed by the explosion. [39]

Naples Caterina Costa explosion Edit

On 28 March 1943, in the port of Naples, a fire broke out on Caterina Costa, an 8,060-ton motor ship with arms and supplies (1,000 tons of gas, 900 tons of explosives, tanks and others) the fire became uncontrollable, causing a devastating explosion. A large number of buildings around were destroyed or badly damaged. Some ships nearby caught fire and sank, and hot parts of the ship and tanks were thrown great distances. More than 600 dead and over 3000 wounded.

Bombay Docks explosion Edit

On 14 April 1944, SS Fort Stikine, carrying around 1,400 long tons (1,400 t) of explosives (among other goods), caught fire and exploded, killing around 800 people.

Bergen Harbour explosion Edit

On 20 April 1944, the Dutch steam trawler ST Voorbode, loaded with 124,000 kilograms (124 t) of explosives, caught fire and exploded at the quay in the centre of Bergen. The air pressure from the explosion and the tsunami that followed flattened whole neighbourhoods near the harbour. Fires broke out in the aftermath, leaving 5,000 people homeless. 160 people were killed, and 5,000 wounded.

SS Paul Hamilton Edit

On 20 April 1944, the Liberty ship SS Paul Hamilton was attacked 30 miles (48 km) off Cape Bengut near Algiers by Luftwaffe bombers. The ship and 580 personnel aboard were destroyed within 30 seconds when the cargo of bombs and explosives detonated.

West Loch disaster Edit

On 21 May 1944, an ammunition handling accident in Pearl Harbor destroyed six LSTs and three LCTs. Four more LSTs, ten tugs, and a net tender were damaged. Eleven buildings were destroyed ashore and nine more damaged. Nearly 400 military personnel were killed.

Port Chicago disaster Edit

On 17 July 1944, in Port Chicago, California, SS E. A. Bryan exploded while loading ammunition bound for the Pacific, with an estimated 4,606 short tons (4,178 t) of high explosive (HE), incendiary bombs, depth charges, and other ammunition. Another 429 short tons (389 t) waiting on nearby rail cars also exploded. The total explosive content is described as between 1,600 [40] and 2,136 [41] tons of TNT. 320 were killed instantly, another 390 wounded. Most of the killed and wounded were African American enlisted men. Following the explosion, 258 fellow sailors refused to load ordnance 50 of these, called the "Port Chicago 50", were convicted of mutiny even though they were willing to carry out any order that did not involve loading ordnance under unsafe conditions. [42]

Cleveland East Ohio Gas explosion Edit

On 20 October 1944, a liquefied natural gas storage tank in Cleveland, Ohio, split and leaked its contents, which spread, caught fire, and exploded. A half hour later, another tank exploded as well. The explosions destroyed 1 square mile (2.6 km 2 ), killed 130, and left 600 homeless.

USS Mount Hood Edit

On 10 November 1944, USS Mount Hood exploded in Seeadler Harbor at Manus Island in Australian New Guinea, with an estimated 3,800 tons of ordnance material on board. Mushrooming smoke rose to 7,000 feet (2,100 m), obscuring the surrounding area for a radius of approximately 500 yards (460 m). Mount Hood ' s former position was revealed by a trench in the ocean floor 1,000 feet (300 m) long, 200 feet (61 m) wide, and 30 to 40 feet (9.1 to 12.2 m) deep. The largest remaining piece of the hull was found in the trench and measured 16 by 10 feet (4.9 by 3.0 m). All 296 men aboard the ship were killed. USS Mindanao was 350 yards (320 m) away and suffered extensive damage, with 23 crew killed, and 174 injured. Several other nearby ships were also damaged or destroyed. Altogether 372 were killed and 371 injured in the blast.

RAF Fauld explosion Edit

On 27 November 1944, the RAF Ammunition Depot at Fauld, Staffordshire, became the site of the largest explosion in the UK, when 3,700 tonnes of bombs stored in underground bunkers covering 17,000 m 2 (180,000 sq ft) exploded en masse. The explosion was caused by bombs being taken out of store, primed for use, and replaced with the detonators still installed when unused. The crater was 40 [43] metres (130 ft) deep and covered 5 hectares. The death toll was approximately 78, including RAF personnel, six Italian prisoners of war, civilian employees, and local people. In the similar Port Chicago disaster (above), about half the weight of bombs was high explosive. If the same is true of the Fauld Explosion, it would have been equivalent to about 2 kilotons of TNT.

Japanese aircraft carrier Unryu Edit

On 19 December 1944, Japanese aircraft carrier Unryu disintegrated when torpedoes fired by USS Redfish detonated the forward magazine.

SS John Burke Edit

On December 28, 1944, while transporting ammunition to Mindoro, Philippines, the Liberty ship SS John Burke was hit by a Japanese kamikaze aircraft, and disintegrated in a tremendous explosion with the loss of all hands. [44]

Japanese battleship Yamato Edit

On 7 April 1945, after six hours of battle, Japanese battleship Yamato's magazine exploded as she sank, resulting in a mushroom cloud rising six kilometres (3.7 mi) above the wreck, and which could be seen from Kyushu, 160 kilometres (99 mi) away. 3,055 crewmen were killed.

Trinity calibration test Edit

On 7 May 1945, 100 tons of TNT was stacked on a wooden tower and exploded to test the instrumentation prior to the test of the first atomic bomb.

Futamata Tunnel Explosion Edit

On 12 November 1945, when the occupation troops were trying to dispose of 530 tons of ammunition, there was an explosion in a tunnel in Soeda, Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu Island. According to a confirmed official report, 147 local residents were killed and 149 people injured. [45] [ better source needed ]

Texas City Disaster Edit

On 16 April 1947, SS Grandcamp, loaded with ammonium nitrate, exploded in port at Texas City, Texas. 581 died and over 5,000 were injured. This is generally considered the worst industrial accident in United States history.

Heligoland "British Bang" Edit

On 18 April 1947, British engineers attempted to destroy the abandoned German fortifications on the evacuated island of Heligoland in what became known as the "British Bang". The island had been fortified during the war with a submarine base and airfield. [46] [47] Roughly 4000 tons [48] [49] of surplus World War II ammunition were placed in various locations around the island and set off. A significant portion of the fortifications were destroyed, although some survived. According to Willmore, [49] the energy released was 1.3×10 13 J, or about 3.2 kilotons of TNT equivalent. The blast is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records under largest single explosive detonation, although Minor Scale in 1985 was larger (see below).

Ocean Liberty in Brest, France Edit

On 28 July 1947, the Norwegian cargo ship Ocean Liberty exploded in the French port of Brest. The cargo consisted of 3,300 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in addition to paraffin and petrol. The explosion killed 22 people, hundreds were injured, 4,000–5,000 buildings were damaged. [50]

Cádiz Explosion Edit

On 18 August 1947, a naval ammunition warehouse containing mostly mines and torpedoes exploded in Cádiz, in southern Spain, for unknown reasons. The explosion of 200 tons of TNT destroyed a large portion of the city. Officially, the explosion killed 150 people the real death toll is suspected to be higher.

"General Vatutin" cargo ship explosion in Magadan, Russia Edit

On 19 December 1947, the Liberty class cargo ship "General Vatutin" exploded in the Soviet port of Magadan at Nagayeva Bay on the Russian Far East. The ship transported 3,313 tonnes of ammonal and TNT for the mining industry. Another cargo ship "Vyborg", carrying 193 tonnes of chemical substances including detonators and fuse cords, also detonated from the explosion. More than 90 people were killed, more than 500 were injured. The explosion caused a tsunami with broken ice. Port buildings were destroyed and damaged. Magadan city buildings were damaged. [51]

Prüm explosion Edit

On 15 July 1949 in the German town of Prüm, an underground bunker inside the hill of Kalvarienberg and used previously by the German Army to store ammunition, but now filled with French Army munitions, caught fire. After a mostly successful evacuation, the 500 tonnes of ammunition in the bunker exploded and destroyed large parts of the town. 12 people died and 15 were severely injured. [52]

Guayuleras explosion Edit

On 23 September 1955 in the Mexican city of Gómez Palacio, Durango, two trucks loaded with 15 tons of dynamite exploded when they apparently collided with a passenger train, causing many deaths. [53]

Cali explosion, Colombia Edit

On 7 August 1956, seven trucks from the Colombian National Army, carrying more than 40 tons of dynamite, exploded. The explosion killed more than 1,000 people, and left a crater 25 metres (82 ft) deep and 60 metres (200 ft) in diameter. [54] [55]

Ripple Rock, British Columbia, Canada Edit

On 5 April 1958, an underwater mountain at Ripple Rock, British Columbia, Canada was levelled by the explosion of 1,375 tonnes of Nitramex 2H, an ammonium nitrate-based explosive. This was one of the largest non-nuclear planned explosions on record, and the subject of the first CBC live broadcast coast-to-coast.

Operation Blowdown Edit

On 18 July 1963, a test blast of 50 tons of TNT in the Iron Range area of Queensland, Australia, tested the effects of nuclear weapons on tropical rainforest, military targets and ability of troops to transit through the resulting debris field. [56]

CHASE 2, off New Jersey Edit

On 17 September 1964, the offshore disposal of the ship Village, containing 7,348 short tons (6,666 t) of obsolete munitions, caused unexpected detonations five minutes after sinking off New Jersey. The detonations were detected on seismic instruments around the world the incident encouraged intentional detonation of subsequent disposal operations to determine detectability of underwater nuclear testing. [57]

Operation Sailor Hat Edit

A series of tests, Operation Sailor Hat, was performed off Kaho'olawe Island, Hawaii, in 1965, using conventional explosives to simulate the shock effects of nuclear blasts on naval vessels. Each test saw the detonation of 500 short tons (450 t) of high explosives.

CHASE 3 and 4, off New Jersey Edit

On 14 July 1965, Coastal Mariner was loaded with 4,040 short tons (3,670 t) of obsolete munitions containing 512 short tons (464 t) of high explosives. The cargo was detonated at a depth of 1,000 feet (300 m) and created a 600-foot (200 m) water spout, but was not deep enough to be recorded on seismic instruments. On 16 September 1965, Santiago Iglesias was similarly detonated with 8,715 short tons (7,906 t) of obsolete munitions. [57]

Feyzin disaster, near Lyon, France Edit

On 4 January 1966, an LPG spill occurred near Lyon, France and resulted in a cloud of propane vapour which persisted until it was ignited by a bypassing car. Several tanks BLEVE'd, causing the deaths of 18 people, the injury of 81 and extensive damage to the site.

Medeo Dam Edit

On 21 October 1966, a mud flow protection dam near Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan was created by a series of four preliminary explosions of 1,800 tonnes total and a final explosion of 3,600 tonnes of ammonium nitrate-based explosive. On 14 April 1967, the dam was reinforced by an explosion of 3,900 tonnes of ammonium nitrate-based explosive.

CHASE 5, off Puget Sound Edit

On 23 May 1966, Izaac Van Zandt was loaded with 8,000 short tons (7,300 t) of obsolete munitions containing 400 short tons (360 t) of high explosives. The cargo was detonated off Puget Sound at a depth of 4,000 feet (1,200 m). [57]

CHASE 6, off New Jersey Edit

On 28 July 1966, Horace Greeley was loaded with obsolete munitions and detonated off New Jersey at a depth of 4,000 feet (1,200 m). [57]

N1 launch explosion Edit

On 3 July 1969, an N1 rocket in the Soviet Union exploded on the launch pad of Baikonur Cosmodrome, after a turbopump exploded in one of the engines. The entire rocket contained about 680,000 kg (680 t) of kerosene and 1,780,000 kg (1,780 t) of liquid oxygen. [58] Using a standard energy release of 43 MJ/kg of kerosene gives about 29 TJ for the energy of the explosion (about 6.93 kt TNT equivalent). Investigators later determined that up to 85% of the fuel in the rocket did not detonate, meaning that the blast yield was likely no more than 1 kt TNT equivalent. [59] Comparing explosions of initially unmixed fuels is difficult (being part detonation and part deflagration).

Old Reliable Mine Blast Edit

On 9 March 1972, 2,000 tons (4 million pounds) of explosive were detonated inside three levels of tunnels in the Old Reliable Mine near Mammoth, Arizona. [60] The blast was an experimental attempt to break up the ore body so that metals (primarily copper) could be extracted using sulfuric acid in a heap-leach process. The benefits of increased production were short-lived while the costs of managing acid mine drainage due to the sulfide ore body being exposed to oxygen continue to the present day.

Flixborough disaster Edit

On 1 June 1974, a pipe failure at the Nypro chemical plant in Flixborough, England, caused a large release of flammable cyclohexane vapour. This ignited and the resulting fuel-air explosion destroyed the plant, killing 28 people and injuring 36 more. Beyond the plant 1,821 houses and 167 shops and factories had suffered to a greater or lesser degree. [61] Fires burned for 16 days. The explosion occurred at a weekend otherwise the casualties would have been much heavier. This explosion caused a significant strengthening of safety regulations for chemical plants in the United Kingdom.

Iri Station Explosion Edit

On 11 November 1977, a freight train carrying 40 tons of dynamite from Gwangju suddenly exploded at Iri station (present-day Iksan), Jeollabuk-do province, South Korea. The cause of the explosion was accidental ignition by a drunk guard. 59 people lost their lives, and 185 others seriously wounded altogether, over 1,300 people were injured or killed.

Los Alfaques disaster Edit

On 11 July 1978, an overloaded tanker truck carrying 23 tons of liquefied propylene crashed and ruptured in Spain, emitting a white cloud of ground-hugging fumes which spread into a nearby campground and discothèque before reaching an ignition source and exploding. 217 people were killed and 200 more severely burned.

Murdock BLEVEs Edit

In 1983 near Murdock, Illinois, at least two tanker cars of a burning derailed train exploded into BLEVEs one of them was thrown nearly three-quarters mile (1.2 km). [62]

Benton fireworks disaster Edit

On 27 May 1983, an explosion at an illegal fireworks factory near Benton, Tennessee, killed eleven, injured one, and caused damage within a radius of several miles. The blast created a mushroom cloud 600 to 800 feet (180 to 240 m) tall and was heard as far as fifteen miles (24 km) away. [63]

1983 Newark explosion Edit

On 7 January 1983, an explosion of the Texaco oil tank farm was felt for 100–130 miles from Newark, New Jersey claiming 1 life and injuring 22–24 people.

Minor Scale and Misty Picture Edit

Many very large detonations have been carried out in order to simulate the effects of nuclear weapons on vehicles and other military material. [64] The largest publicly known test was conducted by the United States Defense Nuclear Agency (now part of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency) on 27 June 1985 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. This test, called Minor Scale, used 4,744 short tons (4,304 t) of ANFO, with a yield of about 4 kt (3,900 long tons 4,400 short tons). [65] Misty Picture was another similar test a few years later, slightly smaller at 4,685 short tons or 4,250 t.

PEPCON disaster Edit

On 4 May 1988, about 4,250 short tons (3,860 metric tons) of ammonium perchlorate (NH4ClO4) caught fire and set off explosions near Henderson, Nevada. A 16-inch (41 cm) natural gas pipeline ruptured under the stored ammonium perchlorate and added fuel to the later, larger explosions. There were seven detonations in total, the largest being the last. Two people were killed and hundreds injured. The largest explosion was estimated to be equivalent to 0.25 kilotons of TNT (1.0 TJ). [66] [67] The accident was caught on video by a broadcast engineer servicing a transmitter on Black Mountain, between Henderson and Las Vegas. [68]

Arzamas train disaster Edit

The Arzamas explosion, known also as Arzamas train disaster, occurred on 4 June 1988, when three goods wagons transporting hexogen to Kazakhstan exploded on a railway crossing in Arzamas, Gorky Oblast, Soviet Union. Explosion of 118 tons of hexogen made a 26-metre (85 ft) deep crater, and caused major damage, killing 91 people and injuring 1,500. 151 buildings were destroyed.

Ufa train disaster Edit

On 4 June 1989, a gas explosion destroyed two trains (37 cars and two locomotives) in the Soviet Union. At least 575 people died and more than 800 were injured. [69]

Intelsat 708 Long March 3B launch failure Edit

On 14 February 1996, a Chinese Long March 3B rocket veered severely off course immediately after clearing the launch tower at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, then crashed into a nearby city and exploded. Following the disaster, foreign media were kept in a bunker for five hours while, some alleged, the Chinese People's Liberation Army attempted to "clean up" the damage. Officials later blamed the failure on an "unexpected gust of wind" although video shows this is not the case. Xinhua News Agency initially reported 6 deaths and 57 injuries. [70] [71]

Enschede fireworks disaster Edit

On 13 May 2000, 177 tonnes of fireworks exploded in Enschede, in the Netherlands, in which 23 people were killed and 947 were injured. [72] The first explosion had the order of 800 kg TNT equivalence the final explosion was in the range of 4,000–5,000 kg TNT. [73]

AZF chemical factory Edit

On 21 September 2001, an explosion occurred at a fertilizer factory in Toulouse, France. The disaster caused 31 deaths, 2,500 seriously wounded, and 8,000 light injuries. The blast (estimated yield of 20–40 tons of TNT, comparable in scale to the military test Operation Blowdown) was heard 80 km away (50 miles) and registered 3.4 on the Richter magnitude scale. It damaged about 30,000 buildings over about two-thirds of the city, for an estimated total cost of about €2 billion. [74]

Ryongchon disaster Edit

A train exploded in North Korea on 22 April 2004. According to official figures, 54 people were killed and 1,249 were injured. [75]

Seest fireworks disaster Edit

On 3 November 2004, about 284 tonnes of fireworks exploded in Kolding, in Denmark. One firefighter was killed, and a mass evacuation of 2,000 people saved many lives. The cost of the damage was estimated at €100 million.

Texas City Refinery explosion Edit

On 23 March 2005, there was a hydrocarbon leak due to incorrect operations during a start up which caused a vapour cloud explosion when ignited by a running vehicle engine. There were 15 deaths and more than 170 injured.

2005 Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal fire Edit

On 11 December 2005, there was a series of major explosions at the 60,000,000 imp gal (270,000,000 L) capacity Buncefield oil depot near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England. The explosions were heard over 100 mi (160 km) away, as far as the Netherlands and France, and the resulting flames were visible for many miles around the depot. A smoke cloud covered Hemel Hempstead and nearby parts of west Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. There were no fatalities, but there were around 43 injuries (2 serious). The British Geological Survey estimated the equivalent yield of the explosion as 29.5 tonnes TNT. [76]

Sea Launch failure Edit

On 30 January 2007, a Sea Launch Zenit-3SL space rocket exploded on takeoff. The explosion consumed the roughly 400,000 kg (400 t) of kerosene and liquid oxygen on board. This rocket was launched from an uncrewed ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, so there were no casualties the launch platform was damaged and the NSS-8 satellite was destroyed.

2007 Maputo arms depot explosion Edit

On 22 March 2007, a series of explosions over 2.5 hours rocked the Mozambican capital of Maputo. The incident was blamed on high temperatures. Officials confirmed 93 fatalities and more than 300 injuries. [77] [78]

2008 Gërdec explosions Edit

On Saturday, 15 March 2008, at an ex-military ammunition depot in the village of Gërdec in the Vorë Municipality, Albania (14 kilometers from Tirana, the nation's capital), U.S and Albanian munitions experts were preparing to destroy stockpiles of obsolete ammunition. The main explosion, involving more than 400 tons of propellant in containers, destroyed hundreds of houses within a few kilometers from the depot and broke windows in cars on the Tirana-Durrës highway. A large fire caused a series of smaller but powerful explosions that continued until 2 a.m. on Sunday. The explosions could be heard as far away as the Macedonian capital of Skopje, 170 km (110 mi) away.[1] There were 26 killed, 318 houses were destroyed completely, 200 buildings were seriously damaged, and 188 buildings were less seriously damaged. [79]

2009 Cataño oil refinery fire Edit

On the morning of 23 October 2009, there was a major explosion at the petrol tanks at the Caribbean Petroleum Corporation oil refinery and oil depot in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. [80] The explosion was seen and heard from 50 miles (80 km) away and left a smoke plume with tops as high as 30,000 feet (9 km) It caused a 3.0 earthquake and blew glass out of windows around the city. The resulting fire was extinguished on 25 October.

Ulyanovsk arms depot explosion Edit

On 13 and 23 November 2009, 120 tons of Soviet-era artillery shells blew up in two separate sets of explosions at the 31st Arsenal of the Caspian Sea Flotilla's ammunition depot near Ulyanovsk, killing ten. [81] [82]

Evangelos Florakis Naval Base explosion Edit

Around 5:45 am local time on 11 July 2011, a fire at a munitions dump at Evangelos Florakis Naval Base near Zygi, Cyprus, caused the explosion of 98 cargo containers holding various types of munitions. The naval base was destroyed, as was Cyprus's biggest power plant, the "Vassilikos" power plant 500 m (1,600 ft) away. The explosion also caused 13 deaths and over 60 injuries. Injuries were reported up to 5 km (3.1 mi) away and damaged houses were reported as far as 10 km (6.2 mi) away. [83] [84] Seismometers at the Mediterranean region recorded the explosion as a M3.0 seismic event. [85]

Cosmo Oil Refinery fire Edit

On 11 March 2011, the Tōhoku earthquake caused natural gas containers in the Cosmo Oil Refinery of Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, Japan to catch fire, destroying storage tanks and injuring six. [86] As it burned, several pressurized liquefied propane gas storage tanks exploded into fireballs. [87] It was extinguished by the Cosmo Oil Company on 21 March 2011. [86]

Donguz Ammunition depot explosion Edit

On 8–9 October 2012, a Russian ammunition depot, at the Donguz test site, containing 4,000 tons of shells exploded 40 kilometres (25 mi) from Orenburg in Central Russia. [ citation needed ]

Texas fertilizer plant explosion Edit

On 17 April 2013, a fire culminating in an explosion shortly before 8 p.m. CDT (00:50 UTC, 18 April) destroyed the West Fertilizer Company plant in West, Texas, United States, located 18 miles (29 km) north of Waco, Texas. [88] [89] The blast killed 15 people, injured over 160, and destroyed over 150 buildings. The United States Geological Survey recorded the explosion as a 2.1-magnitude earthquake, the equivalent of 7.5 – 10 tons of TNT. [90] [91] [92]

Lac-Mégantic rail disaster Edit

On 6 July 2013, a train of 73 tank cars of light crude oil ran away down a slight incline, after being left unattended for the night, when the air brakes failed after the locomotive engines were shut down following a small fire. It derailed twelve kilometres away in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, igniting the Bakken light crude oil from 44 DOT-111 oil cars. Approximately 3–4 minutes after the initial blast, there was a second explosion from 12 oil cars. A series of smaller blasts followed into the early morning hours, igniting the oil of a total 73 oil cars. The disaster is known to have killed 42 people five more were missing and presumed dead. [93]

2015 Tianjin explosions Edit

On 12 August 2015, at 23:30, two explosions occurred in the Chinese port Tianjin at a warehouse operated by Ruihai Logistics. The more powerful explosion was estimated at 336 tons TNT equivalent. [94] 173 people were killed, and 8 remain missing. [95]

2016 San Pablito Market fireworks explosion Edit

On 20 December 2016, a fireworks explosion occurred at the San Pablito Market in the city of Tultepec, north of Mexico City. At least 42 people were killed, and dozens injured.

2020 Tarragona IQOXE plant explosion Edit

On 14 January 2020, an ethylene oxide tank exploded at the IQOXE (Chemical Industries of Ethylene Oxide) plant in Tarragona (Spain).

2020 Beirut explosion Edit

On 4 August 2020, a warehouse containing 2,750 tonnes (3,030 short tons) of ammonium nitrate exploded following a fire in the Port of Beirut, Lebanon. The explosion generated a pressure wave felt more than 240 kilometres (150 mi) away. Following early estimates of the yield of the explosion ranging from hundreds of tons of TNT equivalent [96] [97] [98] [99] [100] to 1.1 kilotons, [101] a study by researchers from the Blast and Impact Research Group at the University of Sheffield estimated the energy of the Beirut explosion to be equivalent to 0.5 - 1.2 kt of TNT. [102] At least 200 people were killed, more than 6,500 injured, and about 300,000 made homeless. Much of central Beirut was devastated by the blast with property damage estimated at US$10–15 billion.

The most powerful non-nuclear weapons ever designed are the United States' MOAB (standing for Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also nicknamed Mother Of All Bombs, tested in 2003 and used on April 13, 2017, in Achin District, Afghanistan) and the Russian Father of All Bombs (tested in 2007). The MOAB contains 18,700 lb (8.5 t) of the H6 explosive, which is 1.35 times as powerful as TNT, giving the bomb an approximate yield of 11 t TNT. It would require about 250 MOAB blasts to equal the Halifax explosion (2.9 kt).

Large conventional explosions have been conducted for nuclear testing purposes. Some of the larger ones are listed below. [64]

Event Explosive used Amount of explosive Location Date
Trinity (100-ton test on tower) TNT 100 short tons (91 t) [103] [104] White Sands Proving Grounds 7 May 1945
TNT 100 short tons (91 t) Suffield Experimental Station, Alberta, Canada 3 August 1961
Blowdown TNT 50 short tons (45 t) Lockhart River, Queensland 18 July 1963
Snowball TNT 500 short tons (450 t) Suffield Experimental Station, Alberta, Canada 17 July 1964
Sailor Hat TNT 3 tests × 500 short tons (450 t) Kaho'olawe, Hawaii 1965
Distant Plain Propane or methane 20 short tons (18 t) Suffield Experimental Station, Alberta, Canada 1966–1967 (6 tests)
Prairie Flat TNT 500 short tons (450 t) Defence Research Establishment Suffield, Alberta, Canada 1968
Dial Pack TNT 500 short tons (450 t) Defence Research Establishment Suffield, Alberta, Canada 23 July 1970
Mixed Company 3 TNT 500 short tons (450 t) Colorado 20 November 1972
Dice Throw ANFO 620 short tons (560 t) White Sands Missile Range 6 October 1976
Misers Bluff Phase II ANFO 1 & 6-simultaneous tests × 120 short tons (110 t) Planet Ranch, Arizona Summer 1978
Distant Runner ANFO 2 tests × 120 short tons (110 t) White Sands Missile Range 1981
Mill Race ANFO 620 short tons (560 t) White Sands Missile Range 16 September 1981
Direct Course ANFO 609 short tons (552 t) White Sands Missile Range 26 October 1983
Minor Scale ANFO 4,744 short tons (4,304 t) White Sands Missile Range 27 June 1985
Misty Picture ANFO 4,685 short tons (4,250 t) White Sands Missile Range 14 May 1987
Misers Gold ANFO 2,445 short tons (2,218 t) White Sands Missile Range 1 June 1989
Distant Image ANFO 2,440 short tons (2,210 t) White Sands Missile Range 20 June 1991
Minor Uncle ANFO 2,725 short tons (2,472 t) White Sands Missile Range 10 June 1993
Non Proliferation Experiment ANFO 1,410 short tons (1,280 t) Nevada Test Site 22 September 1993

Other smaller tests include Air Vent I and Flat Top I-III series of 20 tons TNT at Nevada Test Site in 1963–64, Pre Mine Throw and Mine Throw in 1970–1974, Mixed Company 1 & 2 of 20 tons TNT, Middle Gust I-V series of 20 or 100 tons TNT in the early 1970s, Pre Dice Throw and Pre Dice Throw II in 1975, Pre-Direct Course in 1982, SHIST in 1994, and the series Dipole Might in the 1990s and 2000s. Divine Strake was a planned test of 700 tons ANFO at the Nevada Test Site in 2006, but was cancelled.

These yields are approximated by the amount of the explosive material and its properties. They are rough estimates and are not authoritative.

How to Watch a Nuclear Explosion

From 1945 till 2008, over 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted worldwide. The United States of America alone accounts for 1,054 of these tests, according to an official count. Many of these atmospheric tests, the ones in which the nuclear device is detonated above the ground, were watched by thousands of spectators and volunteers. Radiations and fall-out from these tests were later found to have claimed the lives of more than 11,000 Americans, according to a report by New Scientist. The guys in the following pictures had no idea of what they were getting into.

VIP observers watching the spectacle during Operation Greenhouse at Enewetak Atoll, 1951.

Soldiers being exposed to a nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site in 1951

Believe it or not, these five volunteers were standing at ground zero when a 2KT nuclear war headed air-to-air missile, Genie, was exploded 15,000 feet above their heads, to demonstrate that the weapon was safe for use over populated areas. Whether this affected the health of the officers is unknown.

The testing of "Small Boy" in 1962

Cameramen at the Nevada Test Site, May 25, 1953

Troops watching during Operation Tumbler-Snapper. Twenty-one hundred marines participated in this test on May 1, 1952

Crew of the USS Fall River watching the atomic blast during Operation Crossroads in 1946

Casual observers of the Baker blast during Operation Crossroads

The origin of the next two pictures is unknown, though the last one could be from Operation Tumbler-Snapper.