Tsunami bomb, a rival for nuclear weapons, was tested by U.S., New Zealand: archived secret files

Scott Sutherland
GeekquinoxJanuary 6, 2013
A WWII-era conceptual tsunami bomb was nicknamed "Project Seal."

During its search for the 'ultimate weapon' to end World War II, the United States apparently teamed up with New Zealand to test a 'tsunami bomb,' which could be used to destroy the enemy's coastal cities.

Ray Waru, an author, film maker and television producer in New Zealand, uncovered the top secret files of "Project Seal" from the national archive, which told how the two countries conducted tests of this 'tsunami bomb' in the waters around Auckland and New Caledonia in the 1940s.

"If you put it in a James Bond movie it would be viewed as fantasy but it was a real thing," Waru said, according to the Telegraph. "I only came across it because they were still vetting the report, so there it was sitting on somebody's desk [in the archives]."

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A total of 3,700 bombs were detonated underwater in these tests, and ultimately showed that exploding a line of 10 bombs (totaling about two million kilograms of explosive), roughly eight kilometres from shore, could generate a 10-meter-high wave when it reached land. For comparison, the tallest wave peaks from the tsunami that devastated Japan's west coast in 2011 were recorded at just over nine meters.

“It was absolutely astonishing,” said Waru. “First that anyone would come up with the idea of developing a weapon of mass destruction based on a tsunami — and also that New Zealand seems to have successfully developed it to the degree that it might have worked.”

"Presumably if the atomic bomb had not worked as well as it did, we might have been tsunami-ing people," he added, and he is likely right about that.

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Given that most of the world's major cities are coastal, it would have been a very effective weapon (and likely a lot more environmentally-friendly than nuclear war). The down-side of developing this and going public with it is that it wouldn't be hard to duplicate. You need specialized knowledge, materials and facilities to build nuclear weapons, thus only some nations have them. The relatively simple explosives required to produce one of these 'tactical tsunamis' would be far easier to produce (even for the large quantity required), putting this weapon into far more hands.

Since I'm sure that the environmental impacts of nuclear weapons contributed (at least in part) to our planet emerging from the Cold War without nuking ourselves into oblivion, I'm quite happy that they shelved this weapon, since governments may have been far more willing to use it.

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