We posted yesterday about researchers finding the former USS Independence, a light carrier that had served in World War II, and was later a target vessel used in atomic testing. She actually survived not one, but two atomic blasts, with considerable damage, but no loss of hull integrity. She was scuttled primarily because decontaminating her proved to be too difficult.
Immediately after World War II, the US realized it had the ultimate trump card in the atomic bomb, but was surprised to find just how little it knew about what the weapons could, and more importantly, could not, be expected to do to targets, particularly military targets. The Navy especially was concerned about what effect nuclear weapons would have on the future of naval warfare. Scientists as well needed to conduct research into the basics of weapon development. They had very little information to work with, as only three devices had ever been detonated, and rather obviously, very little scientific data was available from the two used in combat.
And so, even as the US was working to build an inventory of nuclear weapons, it chose to expend two in a test program at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Further, the Navy arranged a target array of about 90 of virtually every type at varying ranges from the intended ground zero. The first weapon, Able, was an airburst, dropped from a B-29. The second shot, Baker, was a shallow underwater burst, with the device suspended by cables from a small ship.
Grab a cup of coffee, this is going to take a bit. The first video is quick, and shows the Baker shot in color.
This video is about 42 minutes long, and shows the set up and effects of both Able and Baker.
What’s astonishing is just how few ships were actually sunk. Ships only a few hundred yards from the burst survived with relatively little damage. The Able shot, being an airburst, left relatively little fallout. The Baker shot, however, was a radiological mess, heavily contaminating virtually every ship in the array.
The major wrecks at Bikini, Saratoga, Nagato, etc, are in quite shallow water, and can be dived with regular scuba equipment.