Tuesday, January 11, 2005
While I think a natural cause to the Sumatra tsunami remains the most likely explanation – Mother Nature gives great plausible deniability – the story of Project Seal is further proof that the military has a different take than many of us on what is unthinkable. And this was thinkable 60 years ago.
Even among dissidents and the newly bestirred, there are many eyes squeezed shut to the ongoing presumption of the Pentagon to fold forces of the natural world into its mandate. I can understand why. It’s scary as hell to doubt the natural provenance of such tremendous forces, and to suggest a human hand is to invite the harshest ridicule. How fortunate for the Pentagon.
Here are two stories, now nearly five years old, from The New Zealand Herald of June 30, 2000 (and thanks to Ken for the links):
Top-secret wartime experiments were conducted off the coast of Auckland to perfect a tidal wave bomb, declassified files reveal.
An Auckland University professor seconded to the Army set off a series of underwater explosions triggering mini-tidal waves at Whangaparaoa in 1944 and 1945.
Professor Thomas Leech’s work was considered so significant that United States defence chiefs said that if the project had been completed before the end of the war it could have played a role as effective as that of the atom bomb.
Details of the tsunami bomb, known as Project Seal, are contained in 53-year-old documents released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Papers stamped “top secret” show the US and British military were eager for Seal to be developed in the post-war years too. They even considered sending Professor Leech to Bikini Atoll to view the US nuclear tests and see if they had any application to his work.
He did not make the visit, although a member of the US board of assessors of atomic tests, Dr Karl Compton, was sent to New Zealand.
“Dr Compton is impressed with Professor Leech’s deductions on the Seal project and is prepared to recommend to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that all technical data from the test relevant to the Seal project should be made available to the New Zealand Government for further study by Professor Leech,” said a July 1946 letter from Washington to Wellington.
Professor Leech, who died in his native Australia in 1973, was the university’s dean of engineering from 1940 to 1950.
News of his being awarded a CBE in 1947 for research on a weapon led to speculation in newspapers around the world about what was being developed.
Though high-ranking New Zealand and US officers spoke out in support of the research, no details of it were released because the work was on-going.
Tsunami experts believe a bomb secretly tested off the coast of Auckland 50 years ago could be developed to devastating effect.
University of Waikato researchers believe a modern approach to the wartime idea tested off Whangaparaoa could produce waves up to 30m high.
Dr Willem de Lange, of the Department of Earth Sciences, said studies proved that while a single explosion was not necessarily effective, a series of explosions could have a significant impact.
“It’s a bit like sliding backwards and forwards in a bath – the waves grow higher,” Dr de Lange said yesterday.
He was responding to a Weekend Herald report of experiments at Whangaparaoa in 1944-45 to create a tidal wave bomb. The top-secret work by the late Professor Tom Leech was detailed in 53-year-old papers released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“You can’t confine the energy. Once the explosion gets big enough, all of its energy goes into the atmosphere and not into the water. But one of the things we discovered was if you had a series of explosions in the same place, it’s much more effective and can produce much bigger waves.”