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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Operation Crossroads: Bikini Atoll

 

Plus 3 Seconds
Grant Powers #8
Watercolor, 1946
88-181-H

 

The bomb cloud has formed four distinct parts. At sea level, the blast wave has expanded horizontally, blasting through the anchored fleet at the bottom of the cloud. The stem and mushroom cap have formed, with lingering remnants of the initial atomic reaction coloring the clouds. In the background, a circular condensation cloud has formed around the mushroom cap, a consequence of high humidity levels at Bikini.

 

Start of Able Bomb
Charles Bittinger #4
Oil on canvas board, 1946
Gift of the artist
95-129-D


Painted from the perspective of Bikini Island, this study shows the cloud towering over the ships of the target fleet. Although Bittinger was at the test, he was not on the island as no one was allowed within five miles of the atoll during the blast.

 

The First Bomb at Bikini
Charles Bittinger #3
Oil on canvas, 1946
Gift of the artist
95-129-C


Captured at the peak of formation, this painting illustrates the classic mushroom cloud shape. The pink color of the cloud is due to the oxidation of nitrogen caused by high heat and radiation from the explosion. The rapidly cooling fireball is the cause of the red glow seen deep within the cloud. The blast wave created the massive waves and steam that engulfed the target fleet at the bottom.

 

Plus 4 Seconds
Grant Powers #10
Watercolor, 1946
88-181-J

 

As the reaction within the cloud began to wind down after 90 seconds, the thunder and hot wind of the blast arrived at the ships stationed 15 miles away.

 

Untitled (Bomb Blast)
Charles Bittinger #18
Oil on canvas board, 1946
Gift of the artist
95-129-S

 

The cloud reaches its maximum height of 40,000 ft in under one minute. As the heat and energy that drove the cloud up dissipated, the cap spread out and reached 2 miles across. Although not visible at the bottom, the ships and islands of the atoll are all covered by the ABLE cloud hovering overhead.

 

Able Second Stage
Charles Bittinger #17
Oil on canvas board, 1946
Gift of the artist
95-129-R

 

After the convection currents caused by the blast disrupted the winds in the upper atmosphere, the ABLE cloud lasted for 20 minutes before the winds returned to tug and pull it apart. As the debris fell to sea, the colors began to change to that of a normal cloud.

 

Untitled (Bomb Blast)
Charles Bittinger #19
Oil on canvas board, 1946
Gift of the artist
95-129-T

 

 
The winds continue to disperse the cloud of radioactive water vapor. The energy from the fireball is nearly spent.

 

Able Bomb
Charles Bittinger #5
Oil on canvas board, 1946
Gift of the artist
95-129-E

 

 
The cap of the cloud separated from the stem as the reaction ended and the vapor drifted off and merged with other clouds in the sky.

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01 August 2001