The solar storm so strong it almost scuppered a US attack during the Vietnam War: Study finds 1972 eruption caused sea mines to blow up

  • Operation Pocket Money planned to deploy 11,000 sea mines off the coast of North Vietnam to cut off naval supply routes to the region  
  • Dozens of mines exploded prematurely, baffling Navy officers 
  • New study says extreme space weather could have caused the explosions 
  • Solar storm activated magnetic sensors in the undersea destructor mines

Researchers say the solar storm activated magnetic sensors in the undersea destructor mines, causing them to blow up en masse.

The underwater explosives were rigged to detonate in response to magnetic, acoustic, and pressure signatures from passing ships. 

However, on August 4, 1972, crew members aboard U.S. Task Force 77 aircraft suddenly observed explosions south of Hai Phong. 

20 to 30 explosions were documented in just 30 seconds. 

Another 25 to 30 patches of muddy water were also observed, indicative of further explosions.

'The extreme space weather events of early August 1972 had significant impact on the US Navy, which have not been widely reported,' researchers led by Delores Knipp, a space weather expert at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said in their paper. 

'These effects, long buried in the Vietnam War archives, add credence to the severity of the storm: a nearly instantaneous, unintended detonation of dozens of sea mines south of Hai Phong, North Vietnam on 4 August 1972.'  

The largest solar storm ever recorded, The Carrington Event in 1859, took out telegraph machines across the US, purportedly causing sparks to fly from equipment – some bad enough to set fires inside offices. 

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By Mark Prigg / US Science and Technology Editor

US Science and Technology Editor @MailOnline, Welsh, Cardiff City fan, primate enthusiast.



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