Tag:

atomic tests

March 1, 2005 /
Tim Sherratt, ‘Frontiers of the future: science and progress in 20th-century Australia’, in Deborah Bird Rose and Richard Davis (editors), Dislocating the frontier: essaying the mystique of the outback, ANU E-Press, Canberra, 2006, pp. 121-142.

 

The glow of his campfire framed a simple tableau of pioneer life. Across this ‘untenanted land’, Edwin Brady mused, ‘little companies’, such as his own, sat by their ‘solitary fires’. ‘They smoked pipes and talked, or watched the coals reflectively’. Around them, the ‘shadowy outlines’ of the bush merged into the dark northern night, and ‘the whispers’ of this ‘unknown’ land gathered about. It seemed to Brady that this camp, this night, represented the ‘actual life’ of the Northern Territory as he had known it. But the future weighed heavily upon that quiet, nostalgic scene. The moment would soon fade, Brady reflected, as the ‘cinematograph of Time’ rolled on. It was 1912, and something new was coming.1 Read MoreFrontiers of the future

  1. Edwin James Brady, Australia Unlimited, p. 570. []
November 29, 2002 /

In the 1950s, CSIRO biochemist, Hedley Marston, became embroiled in what Roger Cross describes as ‘the single most important crisis’ of his professional life. Research into fallout from the British atomic tests in Australia brought Marston into bitter conflict with the government appointed Safety Committee. It was a dispute that involved many of the major players in the Australian scientific community, and one that culminated in ‘perhaps the most unseemly episode in twentieth-century Australian science’. This is a fascinating story of ‘jealousy, hate and power’ that takes us behind the facade of scientific detachment and adds to our knowledge of the politics and personalities involved in Australia’s atomic adventures. Read MoreHedley Marston

November 15, 1998 /

ATOMIC TESTING was undertaken in Australia between 1952 and 1963 as Britain sought to develop its own nuclear weapons. The Australian government readily supplied test sites and logistical support, mistakenly believing that greater access to nuclear technology would result. Read MoreAtomic tests

July 26, 1992 /
Tim Sherratt, paper presented at AAHPSSS annual conference, 1992

 

In the Riverview Observatory, Father O’Connell readied his seismographs – seven of them. The possibility of breakdown had to be considered, and now, with the coal miners out – a blackout at the wrong moment … So the clockwork instruments were oiled and tested, set up alongside their electric successors. Springs taut, whirring, they waited. No anomaly would escape the methodical priest.

But when the time came, when the Bomb was exploded, nary a flicker was registered on the caefully prepared charts. The shockwave from Bikini never arrived. No vibration was detected in Sydney. Yet it was there, that subtle tremor. A ripple moved across the earth, shifting the ground beneath our feet. A ripple formed as some massive bulk shifted, flexed, deep, deep down. Read MorePhyllis in atomic wonderland

December 1, 1985 /
Tim Sherratt, ‘“A political inconvenience”:Australian scientists as the British atomic weapons tests, 1952-3’, Historical Records of Australian Science, vol. 6, no. 2, December 1985, pp. 137-152

 

Then there was a great flash that reached the far horizon. Even Dr Penney, who had witnessed the first historic cataclysm in the desert at Almagordo and later seen a bomb burst over Japan, described the scene as ‘terrifying’ as he turned around to find the frigate Plym had vanished and to see a great greyish-black cloud shooting up thousands of feet into the air and ever-growing in size.1

In the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia on 3 October 1952, Dr William Penney watched as an atomic device for which he was largely responsible vaporised a test ship and sent thousands of tonnes of water erupting into the air. His programme had been successful; Britain was now a fully-fledged nuclear power. Read MoreA political inconvenience

  1. Leonard Bertin, Atom Harvest (London, 1955), 154. []
November 15, 1985 /
Tim Sherratt, ‘Australian scientists at the British atomic tests’, in Robyn Williams (editor), Science Show 2, Nelson, 1985, pp. 216-9. Broadcast on ABC Science Show, 11 May 1985.

 

The radioactive dust had barely settled on the devastated cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when, in November 1945, Winston Churchill proclaimed: ‘This I take is already agreed, we should make atomic bombs.’ It was, and they did – seven years later Britain exploded its first atomic bomb in the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia. In the years that followed, Australia hosted another eleven such tests at three different sites – Monte Bello, Emu Field and Maralinga. Thirty years later we are still attempting to count the costs. Read MoreAustralian scientists at the British atomic tests