Researchers posted online this week more than 250 videos of decades-old U.S. nuclear weapons tests.
California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which has spent more than five years finding, restoring and declassifying the footage, recently published its latest batch to YouTube.
In a press release from last year, LLNL weapon physicist Greg Spriggs detailed the project’s work in hunting down the decaying films from vaults across the country.
“We know that these films are on the brink of decomposing to the point where they’ll become useless,” Spriggs said. “The data that we’re collecting now must be preserved in a digital form because no matter how well you treat the films, no matter how well you preserve or store them, they will decompose.”
The newly digitized videos document several of the U.S. government’s 210 domestic nuclear weapons tests carried out between 1945 and 1962.
In one such video, a 100 kiloton bomb, is airdropped as part of Operation Dominic in 1962.
Operation Dominic included 31 nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean with a total yield of 38.1 megatons.
Tesla, a seven kiloton test initiated in 1955 for Operation Teapot, is also among the footage.
Teapot saw a total of fourteen nuclear tests in the Nevada desert, aimed at establishing military tactics for U.S. ground troops on a nuclear battlefield.
Videos from 1958’s Operation Hardtack II, which produced 37 nuclear tests in Nevada, is featured among the archive as well.
While many of the tests are in black and white, several, including later tests, were filmed in color.
The Juniper test, among 35 of Operation Hardtack I’s detonations in 1958, shows a powerful explosion in the Pacific Ocean.
Aside from preserving the films for historical purposes, Spriggs says the project also hopes to persuade the world to never again use humanity’s most destructive weapon.
“We hope that we would never have to use a nuclear weapon ever again,” Spriggs said. “I think that if we capture the history of this and show what the force of these weapons are and how much devastation they can wreak, then maybe people will be reluctant to use them.”