During the 1950s and 1960s the British government carried out a series of atomic bomb tests in Australia, and most of these occurred at Maralinga.
To support these tests, a fully operational military base was constructed. There was accommodation for 1000 personnel with its own hospital, as well as power and desalination plants.
Today only a handful of buildings remain but there is still evidence of the huge operation that was in action here.
After the completion of the trials in 1963, Maralinga continued to be occupied for the early British clean up attempt in 1967 through to the final thorough clean up completed in the year 2000. For more than thirty years after the atomic tests, it remained a no go zone.
Maralinga, is in South Australia, situated in the Great Victoria Desert on the northern fringe of the Nullarbor Plain. It can be reached from the south via the Eyre Highway, through the railway township (now in ruins) of Ooldea.
As it is part of the Maralinga-Tjarutja Lands, permits are required to visit there. Maralinga village and the test sites are open to the general public through tours conducted by Maralinga Tours under the guidance of the experienced Robin Matthews.
The tour is very comprehensive, although there are still many areas that are off limits. From the airfield to water collection and storage dams, from explorers to the bomb sites and the different methods used to explode the bombs, Robin covered everything with interesting facts and stories.
Seven atomic bombs were prepared for detonation, but only six were exploded. The preparations for Tufi, the seventh bomb, were nearly complete when the English signed an agreement to stop testing.
What remains of the Tufi site, the bomb that never happened, is etched on the Maralinga landscape as a reminder of the huge scale of the operation and of a little known era in Australia’s history.
This video follows the tour of Maralinga as guided by Robin Matthews. In 40 minutes you will learn much of the story of the atomic testing, including some comments from one of those who was there at the time.
We visited Maralinga as part of a tour organised by Vic Widman of Great Divide Tours. For more of the story about the bomb roads, Len Beadell, the rocket testing range and the other mainland bomb testing sites check out Desert Highways: the Roads of Len Beadell.
The video is available on DVD. Buy it now for $19.99.