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UD researcher documents nuclear testing in Pacific

Courtesy of Art Trembanis

A University of Delaware professor helped map decades-old remains of U.S. nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean this summer.  


Oceanographer and professor in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment Art Trembanis was involved in the effort to continue documenting the site at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands where the U.S. military tested the impact of nuclear bombs on warships in the 1940s and 1950s and displaced native inhabitants.

“It's an important piece of U.S. and world history,” he said. “This was really the dawning of the nuclear age. The testing that occurred in 1946 was only the fourth and fifth atomic bombs ever tested. They were done in such a way to maximize the exposure and information about this, so this was headline news around the world.”

Trembanis says his team’s work was the first to use sonar on the underwater site. 

“Previous studies ... focused on some of the ships, but this is our first time really being able to look at the whole landscape,” he said. “It’s like the difference between studying a forest and just being able to look at a few trees to seeing the whole of the forest.”

Trembanis’ team mapped the location of the ships on the seafloor, and documented how the seafloor, the ships and the craters left by the explosions changed over the years.

“You see these photos, and you see these images of these mushroom clouds,” he said. “Then to be on these sites and to see the impacts that still remain on the seafloor really gave us shivers, and hopefully reminds us all of the awesome and terrible power of nuclear weapons.”


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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