The lost nuclear bombs that no one can find –

The eccentric American billionaire Howard Hughes, famous for his broad spectrum of activity, including as a pilot and film director, pretended to become interested in deep sea mining. “But in fact, it wasn’t deep sea mining, it was an effort to build this giant claw that could go all the way down to the sea floor, grab the submarine, and bring it back up,” says Lewis. This was Project Azorian – and unfortunately it didn’t work. The submarine broke up as it was being lifted.

“And so those nuclear weapons would have fallen back to the sea floor,” says Lewis. The weapons remain there to this day, trapped in their rusting tomb. Some people think the weapons remain there to this day, trapped in their rusting tomb – though others believe they were eventually recovered.

Every now and then, there are reports that some of the US’ lost nuclear weapons have been found.

Back in 1998, a retired military officer and his partner were gripped with a sudden determination to discover a bomb dropped near Tybee Island, Georgia in 1958. They interviewed the pilot who had originally lost it, as well as those who had searched for the bomb all those decades ago – and narrowed down the search to Wassaw Sound, a nearby bay of the Atlantic Ocean. For years, the maverick duo scoured the area by boat, trailing a Geiger counter behind them to detect any tell-tale spikes in radiation.

And one day, there it was, in the exact spot the pilot had described – a patch with radiation 10 times the levels elsewhere. The government promptly dispatched a team to investigate. But alas, it was not the nuclear weapon. The anomaly was down to naturally occurring radiation from minerals in the seabed.

So for now, the US’ three lost hydrogen bombs – and, at the very least, a number of Soviet torpedoes – belong to the ocean, preserved as monuments to the risks of nuclear war, though they have largely been forgotten. Why haven’t we found all these rogue weapons yet? Is there a risk of them exploding? And will we ever get them back?

A shrouded object

When Meyers finally got to Palomares – the Spanish village where a B52 bomber came down in 1966 – the authorities were still looking for the missing nuclear bomb. Each night his team slept in tents in the village, which was freezing and damp. “It was just like an English winter,” he says. During the day they did very little – it was a waiting game.

“It’s a standard military thing, hurry up and wait,” says Meyers. “We had to rush over and then we did nothing for two weeks. And then after that, the undersea exploration became very serious.”

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The lost nuclear bombs that no one can find –

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