A nuclear bomb test from July 22, 1958
GIF: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Over the past two years, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has been digitizing old, never-before-seen films of nuclear tests and uploading them to YouTube. The LLNL just uploaded a new batch of films last week, and I couldn’t help but notice that one in particular is incredibly cinematic.

This particular test was part of Operation Hardtack-1 and was conducted on July 22, 1958. The 65-kiloton test starts with a flash of light that makes the entire screen white before an enormous cloud emerges. The white cloud slowly moves upward, revealing a black mushroom cloud rising in the distance.

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Even though this is footage that’s never been seen before, it’s like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie.

The film is actually just footage from a different angle of a test that we’ve seen before. But it really is something to behold. The way that the black mushroom cloud is revealed and contrasts with the bright sky is incredibly ominous.

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The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s latest batch release includes roughly 250 films from between 1945 and 1962. A test ban treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union prohibited nuclear tests above ground from 1963 onward.

Many of the films include tests that we’ve seen previously, including some from Operation Hardtack-I (1958), Operation Teapot (1955), and Operation Dominic (1962). But there are plenty of new operations like Operation Nougat (1962), Operation Sunbeam (1958) and Operation Hardtack-II (1958).

They’re all pretty damn impressive, in that macabre way that only nuclear weapons truly can be. It’d be beautiful if it wasn’t a symbol of the way that humanity can completely destroy itself forever.

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