Tsunami Bomb Project Abandoned by U.S. and New Zealand


It’s not as scary as the atomic bomb we ended up building, but the United States and New Zealand collaborated during World War II on a weapon you could only see in a James Bond movie: an underwater bomb capable of inducing a 33-foot tsunami which could wreck a small city. For a quick comparison, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed somewhere between 185,000 and 230,000 people with waves of approximately 50 feet.

The Telegraph reports that tests were carried out in Caledonia and Auckland during the 1940s as part of a search for a possible alternative to the nuclear bomb. Code-named “Project Seal,” tests with the technology involved the detonation of over 3,700 bombs.

Filmmaker Ray Waru discovered files detailing the experiments during a search of old military archives. He only found it, Waru says, “because they were still vetting the report, so there it was sitting on somebody’s desk [in the archives].”

“Presumably if the atomic bomb had not worked as well as it did, we might have been tsunami-ing people,” Waru commented. “It was absolutely astonishing… that anyone would come up with the idea of developing a weapon of mass destruction based on a tsunami… [and that] it worked.”

Tests were positive, but shelved in 1945, presumably due to the concurrent success of the atomic bomb, which rendered research into other weapons of mass destruction irrelevant. Munitions experts apparently concluded that a successful weaponized tsunami would require two million kilograms of explosive charges arranged five miles off-shore parallel to the beach and detonated in a series of 10 blasts. Single-bomb deployment was apparently impossible due to the level of explosive force required to make large waves.

In his book Secrets and Treasures, Waru details other strange reports from the New Zealand Defense Department archives such as military investigations into UFO sightings, including “descriptions of aliens wearing ‘pharaoh masks.’”

Would tsunami bombs have been worse than the nuclear option? Probably not; an effective deterrent has to be capable of unacceptable damage to the opposing force. Tsunamis are terrible forces of destruction, but nothing compared to a nuclear blast — so had this device been developed, who knows how often it would have been deployed? All you need is a shoreline and an unfriendly regime — and one thing we learned at the conclusion of World War II was our leaders’ indifference to deploying weapons of mass destruction. Could the Bay of Pigs been preceded by a massive wave striking Havana? What about wiping out the beaches of North Korea?

One less weapon we need.