Australian Events in the News

The News - 15 October 1953
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The A–bomb goes up; Mushroom column; Aboriginal profile

The News - 15 October 1953

Adelaide; News Limited

Newspaper, 410 x 300 mm

Location : State Library of South Australia - view catalogue entry

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At dawn on 15 October 1953, the British detonated the first atomic bomb on the Australian mainland at Emu Field, about 480 kilometres north west of Woomera in the desert of South Australia (testing had begun at the Monte Bello Islands off the north coast of Western Australia the previous year). Contemporary accounts reported that the plume of smoke produced by the explosion resembled the profile of an Aboriginal person. A second bomb was exploded at Emu Field on 27 October.

After these detonations at Emu Field, the British decided that their program of tests might continue for 10 years or so and asked the Australian government if a more permanent proving ground might be established. Maralinga was chosen and regular British atomic testing began there on September 27, 1956. Seven atomic bombs were detonated at Maralinga in 1956 and 1957 with a further series of “minor trials” in which at least another 300 nuclear devices were exploded.

Atomic testing at these sites, and at Woomera, has left a lasting legacy. The sites were officially “cleaned up” in 1967, However, there are continued concerns about the effect of radiation exposure on the people involved in the tests. There have been numerous incidences of radiation sickness, chronic illness and birth defects amongst the Australian and British service personnel and in the Aboriginal communities on whose lands the tests occurred.

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