New Hiroshima bombing photo shows split mushroom cloud

A photograph that shows the Hiroshima atomic bomb cloud split into two sections, one over the other, has been released by the curator of a peace museum in Japan. It was discovered on Monday among a collection of some 1,000 archival items related to the bombing, all of which are now in the possession of Honkawa Elementary School in Hiroshima city.

"Studies by the Imperial navy and others have already discovered that the cloud separated, but the photo confirms it and is thus valuable," a museum official told the Japan Times.

The photo had appeared in history books about Hiroshima, but the whereabouts of any copy of the photo or the negative was unknown until now, according to the museum. (...) The materials were contributed by a late survivor, Yosaburo Yamasaki, in or after 1953. It is not known who took the photo. It will be displayed at a museum located next to the school from this spring.

Along with Japan Times, AFP reports that the black-and-white photo was likely taken some 30 minutes after the bombing on August 6, 1945, roughly 10km (6 mi) east of the impact center. That site is located in what is now the town of Kaita, Hiroshima Prefecture (Google Maps link).

"The existence of this shot was always known in history books, but this is the first time that the actual print has been discovered," a curator at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum told AFP. "A shot showing the mushroom cloud split into two like this is very rare." More at Discovery News.



      1. The dead at ground zero (called a “hypocenter,” rather than “epicenter”) were vaporized.  They weren’t noticeable at all, except by their absence.

    1. Without knowing what an atom bomb was, I suppose it was just another Joe taking a picture of the giant explosion over yonder. The Japanese love their cameras, pretty sure hundreds of people around him had a camera and did the same thing. Probably didn’t know for a day just how bad that smoke cloud was.

      1. Not sure if you’re trolling, so I reply somewhat guardedly:
        1. It was not “just another Joe”, it was someone who knew that their whole life had just changed irrevocably 30 minutes earlier.
        2. “Japanese love their cameras” – nice stereotype.  Postwar Japanese certainly do love photography, possibly just as much as anyone else.  The stereotype comes from the 60s and 70s, when Japanese finally graduated into middle-class and could travel internationally, where they brought along their superior quality instamatic cameras.
        3. 1945 Japan was incredibly poor.  They were eating grass to survive.  The fact that this person had a camera is quite remarkable.

        1. I think it’s credible the photographer didn’t know what he was looking at.  I doubt he knew what an atom bomb was (how many did, on that date? five hundred people? five thousand?).  He probably recognized it as a bomb blast, being at war and having felt the shock wave (I guess, at six miles), but might have gotten the scale wrong, seeing it as a smaller and closer explosion than it was.

          1. Having lived in Kaita, very close to where that shot was taken from, he or she certainly would have known it was an extraordinary explosion…they would have been dazzled by the flash and felt the shockwave.
            But knowing the world had changed, doubtful, at least until the extent of damage was known. Atom bombs were not common knowledge…even the first Japanese military reports were guessing about it having been a combustible powder or gas, or a munitions train explosion.

            The camera might have belonged to the school or a teacher. They were expensive, but not super rare, especially near a big city, although most people didn’t own them..

        2.  Japan was not a poor country going into the war.  The fact that food may have been scarce in 1945 didn’t reduce the number of cameras… you can’t eat a camera.

          There were probably many thousands of people at this survivable distance from the blast.  It would be quite remarkable if at least one of them DIDN’T have a camera.

          1. Japan was poor.  Resource poor, food poor, technology so-so.  It’s actually what started the whole mess in the first place: Japan was desperate to climb up the ladder by colonizing the rest of Asia, but we all knew that part.

            And, actually, you _can_ eat a camera: any luxury item like a camera would more than likely been confiscated for military use, hawked for rice, or otherwise traded for more essential goods.  I just asked my father (the one eating grass soup as a boy): no one had cameras in 1945.

        3.  Japanese pictures of the cloud aren’t that unusual. The Hiroshima Peace Museum has a handful on their walls.

          What you and flickerKuu are forgetting is that, in the era before ubiquitous digital cameras, there were keen amateur photographers whose enthusiasm was such that they would have starved before selling their cameras. And even professional photographers; since Hiroshima was a port city involved in shipping out troops, they could probably have made a living just taking the last photos of soldiers before shipping out for their families, even if no-one else was interested in buying photos.

  1. I was born within a few hours of the 10th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. All of my birthdays have been accompanied by newspaper photos and TV footage of mushroom clouds. In fact, when I saw “Hiroshima” in the headline, my first thought was “wait – how can it be that time already?”

    I desperately want to believe in the “inoculation theory”; the notion that having seen the results of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our species will forever avoid the temptation to use these weapons again. 

    Giving the amount we’re spending to keep our nuclear stockpiles “current”, this seems like the most futile of wishful thinking; we’re putting too damn much effort into being ready to use them again, more efficiently than ever. And so it goes.

    1. I’m not a student or authority on this subject, but it sure seems to me that we are much less likely to use a nuclear weapon now than we were thirty or forty years ago.  It’s true that we spend money to keep them current, but it’s also true that we have destroyed many and have not replaced them in equal numbers.  When I say “we” I’m referring to the nuclear nations collectively.

      Edit: Here’s some data:

      Peak number of nuclear warheads and bombs in the stockpile/year: 32,193/1966

      Projected operational U.S. strategic nuclear warheads and bombs after full enactment of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty in 2012: 1,700-2,200

      1. The Shrub was talking about using nuclear “bunker busters”. Not sure if it’s come up in the current administration.


        relatively high threat according to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientistshighest since 1984

  2. But what does it indicate?  That the force was greater, or lesser, or affected in some way by the environment it hit?

    1. My question is similar – this is all very interesting, but what’s the significance of the split cloud?

      1. Obviously it’s proof there was a second nuclear bomb, detonated over the grassy knoll.  Your government has been covering this up for decades.  WAKE UP, SHEEPLE!

    2. It’s simply that as the mushroom cloud rose, it hit a layer of the atmosphere that was traveling in a different speed and direction from the previous. (When you see a sped-up shot of a cloud-filled sky, you can often discern at least three different cloud layers, each traveling in distinctly different directions.)

  3. I am not an expert by any means, but I am guessing that the two clouds are from first the actual bomb detonating in the atmosphere then from the smoke rising from the ground. 

    1.  There’s been an incredible amount of analysis on the dynamic of mushroom clouds by experts with the basics easily found by typing “Mushroom cloud” into google.

  4. 1950s Nevada bomb test footage frequently shows that, for air bursts the mushroom “stem” cloud begins at the ground and rises rapidly to connect with the “cap.”

    Simulate this fluid dynamics in your kitchen using a tray of warm water, dry ice pellets, and a vinyl record album or similar piece of cardboard.   Make a layer of fog in the tray.  Hold the disk a few cm above the water and parallel to it.  Lift it suddenly and smoothly upwards by 30cm.

    A narrow spear of fog will shoot upwards and impact the center of the solid disk.

    Fascinating, Dr. Strangelove!

    Next we will simulate bomb eye damage using a large number of disposable flash cameras and a kitten.

    1. from tfa:
      “Studies by the Imperial navy and others have already discovered that the cloud separated, but the photo confirms it and is thus valuable,”
      See also, the link posted by Winston just before your post.

  5. I also think it’s interesting how the actual use of the atomic bomb has shaped people’s opinion compared to the relative size of the bombs themselves.  Little Boy that was dropped on Hiroshima only had a 16k ton yield, while the most powerful atomic weapon tested (Russia’s Tsar Bomba) had a 50M ton yield.  That’s roughly a 3000 times increase in power, yet the use of the bomb (against an enemy) had far greater impact than testing a weapon that could be seen from space.

  6. Thousands of people actually died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a split second. Millions had to live in the radioactive after-effects. There are some things that move people more than the sheer power of physics alone.

  7. An airburst over a city that caused a flash, in milliseconds, more intense than looking at the surface of the Sun, while driving a downward force that destroyed everything below it (before the fire and radiation).  The Wikipedia link shows the cloud formed by the downward blast.  In this photo; no ground structures, no rolling blast and doubtless the photographer would have been too blind or incinerated to have taken a shot.

    Feeling guilty about something doesn’t prevent it, it’s the penance that people pay to recommit the sin.  “Okay, we’ll stop nuking people but we’ll still keep killing them, just with slower, more painful means.”

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