Entries in christmas island (15)
While well known to anglers around the globe as a tropical fishing paradise, Christmas Island also played a starring role in the testing of the hydrogen bomb and subsequent efforts to ban nuclear testing.
Between 1957 and 1962, the island played involuntary host to 30 nuclear explosions conducted by the British and U.S. militaries. Code-named Operation Grapple, Britain’s tests at Christmas and neighboring Malden Island ranged from a 3,000-kiloton explosion 8,200 feet in the air and far out to sea, to a 24-kiloton balloon-suspended air burst over land. For reference the bomb dropped on Hiroshima had a yield of 15-kilotons.
For reasons of economy and logistics, the later bomb drops were carried out off Christmas Island itself rather than over the distant Malden Island, the eyewitness descriptions of theses tests and their aftermath is chilling.
A partial test ban treaty signed in 1963 put an end to testing in the area but the cleanup of debris and the question of radioctive contamination is still being debated today. It wasn't until 2007 that the British Ministry of Defense completed a clean-up operation and 3,500 tons of scrap vehicles and equipment were removed.
Thousands of serviceman who took part in the bomb tests sued the British Govermnent for compensation for illnesses they attribute to exposure to the radioactive fallout. In March of 2012 the British High Court ruled their suit could not go forward.