Experimental bomb to create huge tidal wave was tested in 1944

SECRET WARTIME experiments were conducted off the New Zealand coast to perfect a bomb that could trigger devastating tidal waves, according to government files declassified in Auckland.

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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
Voices
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas