After the United States dropped the catastrophic atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, it went on an experimentation spree to explore its nuclear power. Somewhere deep in the Nevada desert in New Mexico and in Marshall Islands in the Pacific, the US conducted nuclear weapon test from 1946 to 1962. Vintage videos of some of these blasts, which sent up mushroom clouds and massive fireballs, have now been declassified for the public.
For the first time ever, footage of these blinding flashes of light have been made available on YouTube by a team from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. According to reports, the US conducted about 201 atmospheric nuclear tests during the period which were filmed on high speed cameras. There are about 10,000 of these videos, which capture these tests from multiple angles and focal points. However, this treasure trove of videos, had been gathering dust for decades at a government archive. Now, nuclear weapons physicist Greg Spriggs and his team of archivists, film experts and digital technicians are working on the project to digitise, scrutinise and restore these films before they are lost to time. Spriggs said in an introductory video that they got into this project 'just in time'. This is a big part of history and these videos have reached the brink of decomposing to the point where they would become useless, he said.
Right from the first step of opening each can of film which has not been opened for decades, it has been an interesting journey for film experts on the team. "We have to identify what kind of film it is, what condition it is in, the kind of exposure it needs," said Jim Moye, film expert with the team.
Spriggs and his team have tracked down 6,500 of these videos and converted 4,200 to the digital format. The first batch of videos to be declassified and publicised includes 64 uploaded on YouTube last week. These videos, ranging from just a few seconds to one that is a little more than seven minutes show footage of several major tests of the era like Operation Plumbbob, Teapot and Dominick, among others. Operation Plumbbob, considered to be one of the biggest nuclear tests of the time, included a series of 29 explosions to study various aspects of the impacts on nuclear bombs, on humans, animals, and on structures.
The nuclear tests were filmed for research, but Spriggs said that most of the data analysed from these videos were inaccurate. With better technology now, the team hopes to correct those mistakes and provide accurate information, as these decade-old films hold one of the best sources of information available on the potentials effects of the nuclear bombs. Analysing these videos now have revealed new information about the detonations that were never seen before.