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The Nuclear Test That Vaporized an Island

 On November 1, 1952, as part of Operation Ivy, the US detonated the world's first hydrogen bomb, codenamed "Mike". It was the first full test of a successful design created by Hungarian-American physicist Edward Teller and Polish mathematician Stanisław Ulam. Mike represented a remarkable feat of engineering, standing 20 feet tall and weighing an impressive 74 metric tons. Although it cannot be deployed as a conventional weapon, its significance lies in being the first nuclear device that derives a large portion of its explosive power from the process of nuclear fusion, rather than from fission, the splitting of atoms. Receives. Its functionality depends on the fission reaction to ignite fusion within liquid deuterium, the heavier isotope of hydrogen.


The appearance of the mic was more like an industrial complex than a conventional weapon. It was housed within a substantial corrugated-aluminum structure known as the "shot cab", along with a 300-foot-high signal tower for communications with the control room aboard the USS Estes, where the firing party was stationed. . Due to the use of liquid deuterium as fuel, a large cryogenics plant was required to maintain the deuterium at temperatures close to absolute zero. Powering this complex setup was a powerful 3,000 kilowatt power plant dedicated to the cryogenics facility.

The bomb was set off on a small uninhabited rocky islet called Elugelab, part of the Enewetak Atoll in the South Pacific. Eniwetok consists of forty small islands and atolls, spread out in the shape of an oval ring twenty miles in length and ten miles in breadth, with two entrances leading into its central lagoon. Eniwetok Atoll, which is part of the Marshall Islands, was originally occupied by the Japanese from 1914 during World War II until annexed by the United States in February 1944. It remained a naval base for more than forty years until the Marshall Islands gained independence in 1986. During this time, the atoll became a site of nuclear testing. Between 1948 and 1958, a total of 43 nuclear tests were conducted on Enewetak Atoll, forever changing its landscape and historical significance.




The appearance of the mic was more like an industrial complex than a conventional weapon. It was housed within a large corrugated-aluminum structure known as the "shot cab", along with a 300-foot-high signal tower for communications with the control room on the USS Estes, where the firing party was stationed. , Due to the use of liquid deuterium as fuel, a large cryogenics plant was required to maintain the deuterium at temperatures close to absolute zero. Powering this complex setup was a powerful 3,000 kilowatt power plant dedicated to the cryogenics facility.

The bomb was set off on a small uninhabited rocky islet called Elugelab, part of the Enewetak Atoll in the South Pacific. Eniwetok consists of forty small islands and atolls, spread out in the shape of an oval ring twenty miles in length and ten miles in breadth, with two entrances leading into its central lagoon. Eniwetok Atoll, which is part of the Marshall Islands, was originally occupied by the Japanese from 1914 during World War II until annexed by the United States in February 1944. It remained a naval base for more than forty years until the Marshall Islands gained independence. 1986. During this time, the atoll became a nuclear testing site. Between 1948 and 1958, a total of 43 nuclear tests were conducted on Enewetak Atoll, forever changing its landscape and historical significance.


The impact was as profound as it was devastating. Elugalab, once a single rocky island, was instantly vaporized by the intensity of the explosion, leaving a massive crater 1.9 kilometers in diameter and sinking 50 meters into the Earth's surface. The explosion generated a tsunami with waves up to 6 meters high that stripped vegetation from nearby islands. Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Gordon Dean summarized the results for newly appointed President Dwight D. Eisenhower with a horrifying declaration: "Elugalab Island is missing!"

The Ivy Mike test also led to the discovery of two new elements. Immediately after the bomb's detonation, a fleet of U.S. Air Force planes fly through the nuclear cloud, equipped with modified fuel tanks designed to capture and filter airborne debris. The planes' filters were sealed in lead and sent to Los Alamos, New Mexico for analysis. Among those intrigued by the potential scientific treasure contained within these filters was nuclear scientist Albert Ghiorso of the University of California, Berkeley. Ghiorso speculated that the filter might contain atoms that had been transformed through radioactive decay into the predicted but undiscovered elements 99 and 100. Ghiorso, along with chemists Stanley Gerald Thompson and Glenn Seaborg, obtained half the filter paper from the Ivy Mike test. On this, they were able to detect the existence of elements 99 and 100, which were produced by the intensely focused neutron flux around the explosion site. In 1955, two new elements were named einsteinium and fermium in honor of Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi.


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