Atomic 50s - watching the Nevada blasts from Media Hill

 


Last week (may 1955 - my annotation), the hundreds of Civil Defense observers who had watched the churning, violent ascent of a fiery atomic cloud into the Nevada sky were back home, trying to convey to their communities the enormity of the explosion and educate them on the ways to survival in atomic attack. They had seen the explosion from eight miles off and, next day, went in to compute the damage. But much nearer to Ground Zero were LIFE's lead-shielded robot cameras, which recorded in color what no man could see and survive: the awesome close-up effects of the explosion as it was going on.

The Civil Defense people had gone to Yucca Flat to see the effects of atomic attack on the normal surroundings in which Americans work, play and live. Placed atop a 500-foot steel tow. er was a nuclear device that would unleash upon a simulated town an amount of energy equivalent to the detonation of 35,000 tons of TNT nearly twice the strength of the Hiroshima bomb but only 1/500th the strength of the hydrogen thermonuclear weapon. On a clear, cool day after nine days of postponements due to bad weather, the device was set off at 5:10 a.m. 




BLUE AFTERGLOW remains in the atmosphere surrounding the atomic cloud as the mushroom takes shape in the thin light of dawn. This weird effect, which persisted about seven seconds after the boiling mass lost its fiery hues, indi cates intensive degree of ionization (displacement of electrons) of the air by radioactivity and shock waves from within the cloud. In the foreground is the slope of Media Hill where most of the Civil Defense observers watched. The cloud reached a height of about 40,000 feet, a frosty white cap forming on its top as it moved into the cold upper atmosphere. There the winds began to disperse it.

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images and info provided by the LIFE Magazine / LIFE Magazine International / LIFE Magazine Atlantic ARCHIVE from the Zetu Harrys Collection

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