VIDEO: Australia’s first atomic bomb test, 1952

By Jared Richards 21 June 2016
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Dramatic documentary footage captures Operation Hurricane, the British’s first atomic bomb test conducted in the Montbello Islands off Western Australia.

DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE MADE by Anvil Films for the British Ministry of Supply captures the tension-filled minutes before and after Operation Hurricane, the first atomic bomb test in Australia.

The bomb was detonated in October 1952 on the Montebello Islands, 100 kilometres off the North-western coast of Western Australia.

In the documentary, British workers monitor equipment and explosion-measuring devices as a supervisor counts down to detonation, scored with tension-building horns which match the anxious and antipatory faces. Crowds await the explosion from afar; when it arrives, the video switches to colour, as to capture the bravatas of the moment.

Australia has a short but scarring history with atomic bomb testings. The British used Australian land for bomb testings during the beginning of the Cold War from the 1950s to 1963.

After the first test at the Montebello islands, two more occured at Emu Field before moving to the remote area of Maralinga in South Australia. Thousands of ‘minor’ tests were held at Maralinga from 1956 to April 1963. The British governments attempts to later treat the land were insufficent, and only recently has Maralinga become safe to visit.

RELATED: Gallery: Maralinga, SA

In 2009 the land was returned to tradtional owners, the Maralinga Tjarutja. The area has become something of a tourist destination.

Read more about Maralinga in AG #133, out now.