Amazing photos of 1946 nuclear weapons test

Baker was a 23-kiloton nuclear weapon that was detonated underwater at Bikini Atoll in 1946. The goal was to see what would happen to Navy boats if they were in the region where a nuclear bomb went off. The boats you see in this photo were unmanned, but there were sailors relatively close by, taking these shots. There's evidence that they weren't properly protected against fallout, and later used contaminated water to drink and bathe in. (Also, as a fictional side effect, Bikini Atoll nuclear tests like Baker might have been responsible for the creation of Spongebob Squarepants.)

My Modern Met has compiled several photographs and video that give you an up-close, mind-boggling view of the explosion — including the massive column of water that shot into the mushroom cloud and the 2-mile-high tidal wave that followed.


  1. Despite the fact that there was an armada of ships in Bikini when the bomb went off, it’s remote location means that most of the wrecks haven’t been explored. If you’re interested in this sort of thing there’s a great kickstarter looking to explore the wrecks:

      1. I’m confused about why it should. If I make a documentary about the Three Gorges Dam should money go to the people who were resettled? What about World War II, should I give money to Holocaust survivors? How about Katrina, should I give money to people in the ninth ward?

        The film makers had nothing to do with the US Government’s decision to resettle the residents. Perhaps the issue will be addressed in the documentary, but likely not. However, by creating the documentary it’s more likely that people will learn about the plight of residents of Bikini as they read and learn about the test. That’s a service right there.
        Also, if you’re that convicted of this issue, you can back the project for $1 and post the question directly to the film makers.

        1. Three Gorges Dam should money go to the people who were resettled? What about World War II, should I give money to Holocaust survivors? How about Katrina, should I give money to people in the ninth ward?

          Just a question, dude.    CTFD

          God, I can’t wait until the winter blues are over for people and summer kicks in, boingboing is full of nitpicky, hypersensitive, cantankerous-feelin’ people lately…  sheesh.

    1. Yeah, that’s someone misunderstanding something. The detonation threw water UP 2 miles high, but it mostly fell straight back down. It definitely didn’t create a 2 mile high wave.

      1.  And it wouldn’t be a tidal wave even if it had. Tidal waves are those caused by tides.

        1. Or they’re, ya know, waves that resemble those caused by tides, such as in the case of tsunami. They’re referred to as “tidal waves” for a reason.

    2. The military was interested in a weapon that would actually create a tidal wave (not that high though), but it would only have worked fairly close to the coast and would have used several bombs.

  2. There’s not enough depth in the lagoon to allow for a wave that size.  Not to mention the soldiers and everything else on the island would have been washed away, denying us the incredible photos.

    1. The black streak  on the right side was the U.S.S. Saratoga, one of the aircraft carriers that won the Battle of Midway.

      In this age of cheap missiles, drones and satellites, it’s hard to envision a $10 billion aircraft carrier surviving for very long.

      1. I wonder about North Korea with their nukes which are nowhere near being able to fly on a rocket, but North Korea has a lot of old submarines and a nuke could be built into one of them.

  3. The wave formed by the blast reached a respectable 94 feet high, though not 2 miles as described. Also, technically the Baker blast did not produce a mushroom cloud which is the result of the formation of a toroidal ring from the mixing of the superheated and cool air, with the ring rising very high. Instead the blast from the Baker explosion was water that was blown into the air and then fell back down. 

  4. The video footage is from a documentary called Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb movie. Narrated by William Shatner!

  5. Makes me wonder what a 50 megaton weapon like Tsar Bomba would do deep under water.  Water carries pressure waves really well.  I would imagine it would create a tsunami. 

  6. I’m a sucker for weapons shots like this, but it’s worth remembering also that Bikini Atoll had been inhabited for thousands of years, and belonged to the Micronesian people living there, before the tests. 

    They were rounded up and deported at gunpoint – excuse me, “relocated” – so that we could blow it up, and then a number of them were brought back 20 years later while it was still contaminated with Strontium-90 and Cesium-137 from the fallout.  Eventually they were evacuated again after many miscarriages and children born with birth defects. 20th century America has a lot in common with the 19th century America that brought the Cherokee and Ponca the “Trail of Tears”.

    1. The Marshal Islands (Bikini Atoll) is still a radioactive disaster. One of the bombs detonated there was bigger than they thought it would be and heavily exposed the people on one of the islands. People can not grow their own food in the area due to the contamination still today. They depend on food imports and much of that is unhealthy US commodity foods so obesity and health problems related to diet are heaped on top of health issues from long term exposure. Having their society crippled and dependent on the US has stifled any ability to evolve leaving them like a radioactive indian reservation in the Pacific. 

      All these bomb blasts in the Pacific has also left most of the seafood with levels of cesium still detectable decades later. This came to light again after Fukushima when officials started trying to split hair about what fish contamination was due to Fuku and what was remaining from the Pacific atomic tests. 

      This should all be no surprise since during the same period of time the US was nuking their own people on a repeated basis via the above ground nuclear bomb tests in Nevada. Those were only stopped after a group collected children’s teeth to prove they were contaminated with strontium 90 in their bones and took the results to Congress. There are maps online showing the highest fallout zones that were far beyond Nevada. 

      All this crap doesn’t just go away or stay right where it was detonated.

  7. My dad was on a ship over there in the early/mid 50’s during later tests.  He used to tell stories of standing out on deck when the commander would tell them to cover their eyes.  He claimed you could see the outline of other ships through your hands the explosion was so bright.  Once it was over, they would all go back inside and turn in their film-badge dosimeters.

    I wish he was here to tell me more about it, but he died from cancer 12 years ago. 

    1. I’ve heard that seeing through your hands isn’t so much the brightness as it is the X-ray wavelength of radiation that is given off.  Of course most accounts of this happening were with the first atomic tests for Fat Man and Little Boy.  The water might do a decent job of filtering out the x-ray wavelength.

  8. “The goal was to see what would happen to Navy boats if they were in the region where a nuclear bomb went off.”

    I think they could have come up with a pretty good guess…

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