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Underwater research methods for study of nuclear bomb craters, Enewetak, Marshall Islands

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Abstract

Three craters, created by the explosion of nuclear fusion devices, were mapped, sampled, core drilled and excavated with airlifts at Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands by using scuba and a research submersible. The craters studied were Mike, Oak, and Koa. Tests took place near sea level at the transition between lithified reef flat and unlithified lagoonal sediments, where water depth ranged from 1 to 4 m. Craters produced by the blasts ranged from 30 to 60 m in depth. The purpose of our study was to determine crater diameter and depth immediately after detonation. Observations of submerged roadways and testing structures and upturned crater rims similar to those characteristic of meteor impacts indicate that the initial, or transient, craters were smaller than their present size. At some later time, while the area was too radioactive for direct examination, the sides of the craters slumped owing to dewatering of under lying pulverized rock. Core drilling of crater margins with a diver-operated hydraulic coring device provided additional data. On the seaward margin of the atoll, opposite Mike, a large portion of the atoll rim approximately the size of a city block had slumped into the deep ocean, leaving a clean vertical rock section more than 400m high. An abundance of aggressive grey reef sharks displaying classic territorial behavior prevented use of scuba at the Mike slump site. The two-person submersible R.V. Delta provided protection and allowed observations down to 300 m. During the 6-week period of study, we made more than 300 scuba and 275 submersible dives. Mapping was with side scan sonar and continuous video sweeps supplemented by tape-recorded verbal descriptions made from within the submersible. A mini-ranger navigation system linked to the submersible allowed plotting of bottom features, depth and sediment type with spatial accuracy to within 2 m.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Underwater research methods for study of nuclear bomb craters, Enewetak, Marshall Islands
Year Published 1990
Language English
Publisher American Academy of Underwater Sciences
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 18 p.
Larger Work Type Conference Paper
Larger Work Subtype Conference Paper
First page 327
Last page 344