A diver may have discovered a long lost atomic bomb similar to the one dropped on Hiroshima while searching for sea cucumbers off the coast of Canada.
Sean Smyrichinsky was using a diver propulsion vehicle about 25 feet below the surface of the water near Pitt Island, a small land mass not far from Alaska. As he jetted around looking at the sea floor, he noticed something that was too perfectly round to be a natural formation. Upon further inspection, he found precise markings and perfect “bowls” in the shape that were about the size of a basketball. He returned to his boat and sketched his discovery to show his friends at the bar when he was able to return. Smyrichinsky believed he might have found a crashed UFO.
His friends weren’t as sure he’d discovered a spaceship, but one of the older men present made an interesting suggestion: “Maybe you found that old missing A-bomb?”
On February 13th, 1950, a Convair B-36 bomber, designated Flight 2075, took off from Eielson Airbase in Fairbanks, Alaska armed with a single Mark IV atomic bomb equipped with a dummy core made of lead. Their flight plan included a simulated bombing run over California en route to Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. The flight was expected to take 16 hours, but six hours after takeoff, things began to go wrong.
At 11:25 p.m., Captain H.L. Barry, the pilot of the B-36, began radioing that the flight was in distress. Icing conditions prompted him to decrease elevation from 40,000 feet to 15,000. Moments later, Barry radioed again. “One engine on fire. Contemplate ditching in Queen Charlotte Sound between Queen Charlotte Island and Vancouver Island. Keep a careful lookout for flares or wreckage.”
With six pusher-prop engines, the B-36 could sustain a single engine failure for some time, but soon the problems escalated. The craft was losing altitude at a rate of 300 feet per minute. As Barry tried to climb again, another engine caught fire, followed by another engine failure. As the instruments began to fail as well, Barry relayed their location and that he would be putting on the autopilot to fly the bomber southwest.
As the crew prepared to ditch, the radio operator, Staff Sergeant Trippodi, secured the plane’s transmitter key in hopes the steady signal would bring prompt rescue to recover the crew and wreckage. Before ditching, the crew dropped the atomic bomb into the frigid waters below. Barry would later state that he saw the other crewmen’s parachutes open as the B-36 circled Ashdown Island once, then he lost sight of it and assumed it crashed into the sea.
Despite a substantial search effort put forth by both the United States and Canadian navies, no signs of the downed B-36 could be found in the waters surrounding the small Canadian island. It took two days to find the 12 survivors. Staff Sergeant Trippodi was found suffering severe frostbite in both feet. He had been hanging upside down for over 12 hours after attempting to cut the lines of his chute to climb down from the tree he had landed in.
The wreckage would eventually be discovered, two years later, in the snow-covered mountains of northern British Columbia. The plane seemed to have circled back and somehow gained over 2,000 feet in altitude and covered hundreds of miles after the crew had ditched. The U.S. government theorized that at least one of the failed engines must have come back online after Barry set the autopilot and jumped from the plane. A military team from the U.S. was dispatched to destroy the remaining wreckage soon thereafter.
Five crewmen of the 17 were lost, presumed dead from hypothermia and exposure to the elements. The remaining crew stated in official reports that they set the bomb to detonate at 3,000 feet just before releasing it in order to ensure the Soviets didn’t find and reverse engineer the weapon. The wreckage was combed over by both U.S. and Canadian governments, as well as treasure hunters over the years, but no signs of the bomb were ever discovered. Until now.
The Canadian Navy has dispatched a ship to the location Smyrichinsky indicated, and based on his description, there is reason to believe he may have actually found components of the lost nuclear weapon, or even the intact shell, which would contradict the crew’s statement that they set the bomb to detonate.
“I think every diver wants to find a pot of gold,” Smyrichinsky told the Washington Post. “But you never expect to see this or something like this.”
Smyrichinsky will be joining the Canadian naval vessel later this month to aid in their search for whatever it was that he found. Major Steve Neta of the Canadian Armed Forces pointed out to NBC News that the weapon had a dummy core, leaving no possibility for nuclear contamination, but both Canadian and U.S. officials are very interested to see how the impending search shakes out.
Image courtesy of the Royal Aviation Museum