The lost nuclear bombs that no one can find

The eccentric American billionaire Howard Hughes, famous for his wide spectrum of activities, 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 attempt to build this giant claw that could go all the way to the seafloor, grab the sub and bring it back up,” Lewis says. This was Project Azorian – and unfortunately it didn’t work. The submarine broke apart during lifting.

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

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

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

And one day it was there, exactly where the pilot had described – a place with radiation ten times higher than elsewhere. The government immediately sent a team to investigate. But alas, it was not the nuclear weapon. The anomaly was due to naturally occurring radiation from minerals in the seafloor.

So for now, the three lost US hydrogen bombs — and at least some Soviet torpedoes — belong to the ocean, preserved as monuments to the risks of nuclear war, though largely 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 cloaked object

When Meyers finally arrived in Palomares – the Spanish village where a B52 bomber crashed in 1966 – authorities were still looking for the missing atomic bomb. Every night his team slept in tents in the village, which was freezing cold and damp. “It was 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,” Meyers said. “We had to hurry and then we did nothing for two weeks. And then the submarine reconnaissance got really serious.”

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