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Atomic testing at Maralinga

Extract from Operation Buffalo (1956). Cinesound Movietone Australian Newsreel Collection, 123044, National Film and Sound Archive. This video has no sound

Newsreel item from 1957 showing British atomic tests at Maralinga in South Australia that took place in October 1956.

With the agreement of the Australian Government, Britain tested atomic weapons at three sites on Australian territory: the Montebello Islands off Western Australia, and Emu Field and Maralinga in South Australia. The testing took place from 1952 to 1963, mostly at Maralinga. Australian authorities did not discover the extent of the contamination at Maralinga until 1984, just before the land was to be returned to its Aboriginal owners.

This clip opens with the intertitle: ‘Dramatic first pictures of the fourth series of atomic tests at Maralinga in South Australia’. Aerial photography shows the airstrip, village and military camp at Maralinga. British atomic scientist Sir William Penney arrives and is greeted by range commander Colonel Durrant. The bomb is dropped, and a flash of light illuminates the area before a mushroom shaped cloud appears in the distance. 


1. What does this short film clip show? Summarise what you see and hear.

2. Does the film appear to have a main purpose or message? If so, what do you think it is?

3. Who made the film clip and when was it made? Use this information to try to work out why the film was made. Does this change what you think about the purpose of the film?