British Nuclear Testing in Australia


We have made a successful start. When the [nuclear] tests are completed, as they soon will be, we shall be in the same position as the United States or Soviet Russia. We shall have made and tested the massive weapons. It will be possible then to discuss on equal terms.
Harold Macmillan, U.K. Prime Minister, 1957.

Code-name Location Date Yield Explosion Conditions
Hurricane Monte Bello
(off Trimouille Is)
3 Oct 1952 25kt Ocean surface burst (HMS Plym)
Totem 1 Emu Field 15 Oct 1953 10kt Tower
Totem 2 Emu Field 27 Oct 1953 8kt Tower
Mosaic G1 Monte Bello
(off Trimouille Is)
16 May 1956 15kt Tower
Mosaic G2 Monte Bello
(off Alpha Is)
19 June 1956 60kt Tower
Buffalo Maralinga
(One Tree)
27 Sept 1956 15kt Tower
Buffalo Maralinga
4 Oct 1956 1.5kt Ground
Buffalo Maralinga
11 Oct 1956 3kt Airburst over land
Buffalo Maralinga
22 Oct 1956 10kt Tower
Grapple 1 Malden Is, Pacific
(Short Granite)
15 May 1957 ~2Mt Airburst over ocean
Grapple 2 Malden Is, Pacific
(Orange Herald)
31 May 1957 1Mt Airburst over ocean
Grapple 3 Malden Is, Pacific
(Purple Granite)
19 Jun 1957 1Mt Airburst over ocean
Antler Maralinga
14 Sept 1957 1kt Tower
Antler Maralinga
25 Sept 1957 6kt Tower
Antler Maralinga
9 Oct 1957 25kt Balloon-burst over land
Grapple X Christmas Is
(Round C)
8 Nov 1957 1Mt Airburst over ocean
Grapple Y Christmas Is
(Grapple Y)
28 Apr 1958 1Mt Airburst over ocean
Grapple Z Christmas Is
(Pennant 2)
22 Aug 1958 ~1Mt Balloon-burst over land
Grapple Z Christmas Is
(Flag Pole 1)
2 Sept 1958 1Mt Airburst over ocean
Grapple Z Christmas Is
(Halliard 1)
11 Sept 1958 1Mt Airburst over ocean
Grapple Z Christmas Is
(Burgee 2)
23 Sept 1958 1kt Balloon-burst over land
Source: Australian Ministry of Defence, 20 March 1984

Maralinga is in SW South Australia. Maralinga is Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal dialect for "Field of Thunder". Emu is in NW South Australia. Monte Bello is off the Western Australian shore, near Monkey Mia. Christmas and Malden Is are due south of Hawaii, on either side of the Equator. After the Grapple tests, the British lent the site to the US in 1962 for the Dominic series of 25 explosions.

During the mainland tests many army personnel were deliberately exposed to the blasts just to see what effect radiation had on troops.

Security at the test sites was lax. The testing range boundaries were not properly monitored, allowing people to walk in and out. Any signs were in English, which the local Aboriginal population could not read.

Fallout from the ground blasts led to massive contamination of the Australian interior. The fallout from Maralinga even reached Adelaide and Melbourne. Some places are still heavily radioactive due principally to the presence of the Pu-239 radioisotope.

Compensation is currently being sought in Australian courts.

Aust test Photos: Courtesy Department of Primary Industries and Energy, 1995

Hurricane at 0.1 Seconds
Hurricane at 1 second
Hurricane at 5 seconds

Totem I

Totem II

Mosaic G1
At the end of the countdown, there was a blinding electric blue light, of such an intensity I had not seen before or ever since. I pressed my hands hard to my eyes, then, realised my hands were covering my eyes. This terrific light power, or rays, were actually passing through the tarpaulin, through the towel, and through my head and body, for what seemed ten to twelve seconds, it may have been longer. After that, the pressure wave, which gave a feeling such as when one is deep underwater. This was then followed by a sort of vacuum suction wave, to give a feeling of one's whole body billowing out like a balloon.
Observer, Mosaic G1 at Monte Bello, 16 May 1956.

Mosaic G2

One Tree 1
One Tree 2
One Tree 3
One Tree 4

Marcoo 1
Marcoo 2
Marcoo 3

Kite 2


Christmas Island

Grapple Y at Detonation Grapple Y

Originally from

contact: Bruce A. Peterson

846th access Last modified: Thu 8 Mar 2012