Science 3 min read

US Navy Files Blame Solar Storm for Sea Mine Explosions

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Declassified files buried in the US Navy archives have revealed that a powerful solar storm caused sea mines to explode during the Vietnam War.

According to researchers from the University of Colorado and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, recently declassified US Navy documents have confirmed decades-long suspicions that a solar storm triggered sea mines to explode during the late stages of the Vietnam War.

In the analysis of the documents published by the team in the journal Space Weather, they offered insight into the alleged “solar, geophysical and military circumstances” during the event. The scientists claim that the storm deserves a review from the scientific community as it provides “space‐age terrestrial observations” of what appears to be a Carrington‐class storm.

“This event occurred near the end of the Vietnam War,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “The US Navy attributed the dramatic event to ‘magnetic perturbations of solar storms.'”

“In researching these events we determined that the widespread electric‐ and communication‐ grid disturbances that plagued North America and the disturbances in Southeast Asia late on 4 August likely resulted from propagation of major eruptive activity from the Sun to the Earth.”

How the Solar Storm Detonated Sea Mines in 1972

On August 4th, 1972, the crew of a US Task Force 77 aircraft was tasked to investigate a series of mysterious minefield explosions in the waters of Hon La, Vietnam. There were allegedly 20 to 25 explosions, each over 30 seconds long, and some 25 to 30 mud spots near the sea minefield.

The US Navy reportedly buried these Destructor sea mines during a mining campaign against Vietnam. The investigation team found no reason for the mines to explode. However, a thorough analysis of the environment and space condition during that day revealed that a powerful solar storm might have caused the mines to detonate.

That year, scientists reportedly recorded some of the most extreme solar activities in history. According to reports, a sunspot called MR 11976 emitted a series of intense solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and charged particle clouds traveling nearly as fast as the speed of light.

Brian Fraser, one of the scientists at the Space Environment Laboratory of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration at the time, remembers a group of US Navy men visiting NOAA after the explosions happened.

The declassified documents pointed out that there’s a high degree of probability that the Destructor mines they buried had been detonated by the solar activity storm that August day.

The research team concluded that the 1972 solar storm was indeed a Carrington-class storm, although it was shorter than the Carrington event that happened in 1859. The group is now calling on other researchers to gather all their archival information together for them to learn more about what really transpired on August 1972.

Do you believe that a solar storm could cause significant catastrophic damage to our planet?

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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