Experimental bomb to create huge tidal wave was tested in 1944
Monday 27 September 1999
The New Zealand Herald, citing the files, said that senior United States defence officials believed the weapon had the potential to be as deadly as the atomic bomb. But the tsunami bomb, as it was known, was never fully tested and the war ended before the project was completed.
Its mastermind was Thomas Leech, an Australian professor who as the dean of engineering at Auckland University from 1940 to 1950. He was seconded to the New Zealand Army during the Second World War. He set off a series of underwater explosions that triggered mini tidal waves at Whangaparaoa, just north of Auckland, in 1944 and 1945.
Details of the research, known as Project Seal, are contained in 53- year-old documents released by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The papers, stamped "Top Secret", show that America and Britain were keen for Seal to be developed in the postwar years. They even considered sending Professor Leech to Bikini Atoll to watch the US nuclear tests and see if they had any application to his work.
In the end, he did not make the visit, although Dr Karl Compton, a member of the US board of assessors of nuclear tests, was sent to New Zealand to meet him.
In July 1946, a letter from Washington to Wellington Defence Headquarters stated: "Dr Compton is impressed with Professor Leech's deductions on the Seal Project and is prepared to recommend to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that all technical data from the test, relevant to the Seal Project, should be made available to the New Zealand government for further study."
The announcement in 1947 that he had been awarded a CBE for weapons research led to speculation in some newspapers outside New Zealand about the nature of the work that he had been conducting. No details were released about it at the time because the project was still under way.
Neil Kirton, a former colleague of Professor Leech, told the New Zealand Herald that the experiments involved laying a pattern of explosives underwater to create a tidal wave.
Small-scale explosions were set off in the Pacific and off Whangaparaoa, which was controlled by the army at the time. Mr Kirton said he doubted whether people living in Auckland at the time would have noticed the trials.
What happened to Project Seal once the final report was forwarded to Wellington in the late 1940s is not clear.
Mr Kirton said: "If it could ever be resurrected, under some circumstances I think it could be devastating."
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Bali Nine executions in Indonesia: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford says she 'just wants to get it over with'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£16 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for someone ...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW Londo...
£14560 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Even though their premises have...