Military Review

The strongest non-nuclear explosions in history

The invention of gunpowder by man forever changed the nature of warfare. Already in the Middle Ages, gunpowder was widely used not only in artillery, but also to undermine the fortress walls, under which were made undermining. In this case, the defenders were not sitting idly, they could also blow up these digs or dig countergalleries. Sometimes real battles took place underground. These underground battles became much later an element of the First World War, when the opposing countries got bogged down in a positional war and trench seat and returned to the tactics of digging undermining and laying under enemy fortifications of underground mines of monstrous power.

At the same time, during the First World War, there were two explosions of enormous power, one of which was carried out during the Battle of Messina in June 1917, and the second occurred already in December 1917, far from the front line in Canadian Halifax, almost completely destroying this city. The Halifax explosion is one of the strongest man-made non-nuclear explosions that were made by mankind, and for a long time was considered the most powerful explosion of the non-nuclear era.

Messina Battle

The battle of Messina, or the Messina operation, continued from 7 to 14 on June 1917 of the year and ended successfully for the British army, which managed to press the German forces, improving their positions. The battle took place in Flanders, near a village called Mecen, during which British troops tried to cut off the 15-kilometer overhang of the German troops. The British, who realized that they couldn’t break through the defenses of the Germans with conventional attacks, began preparations for the operation back in the 1915 year, 15 months before it began. During this time period, they managed to lay more than 20 giant tunnels under the second level of groundwater in the blue clay formation. This engineering work was preceded by serious geodetic work and the study of the soil in this sector of the front.

The British mined all the tunnels dug in, and the excavated soil was carefully masked so that the Germans could not notice it, especially during aerial reconnaissance. English subterranean galleries started around 400 meters behind their defense lines. Since the German positions in this sector of the front were going up to heights, the tunnels were defended by German troops at a depth reaching 25-36 meters, and in some places to 50 meters. The total length of these underground utilities was more than 7300 meters, while at the end of the tunnels the British laid about 600 tons of explosives, they used ammonite. Still, the Germans managed to unravel the plan of the British strategists, but they mistakenly believed that the tunnels are located at a depth of 18 meters, so they managed to destroy only two mine galleries, still 22 remained intact.

The offensive of the British troops on this sector of the front was preceded by a powerful artillery preparation, which began on May 28. And 7 June with an interval of approximately 30 seconds was carried out undermining 19 mine galleries. As a result of these explosions, the first and second lines of the Germans' trenches were destroyed, and huge craters appeared at the site of the fortifications. The largest crater is considered to be the “crater of a lonely tree”, whose diameter was up to 80 meters, and its depth reached 27 meters. As a result of these underground explosions, about 10 thousands of German soldiers died, another 7200 soldiers and 145 officers of the German army were captured, being demoralized and unable to offer serious resistance. Craters from those terrible explosions survived to this day, many of them have become artificial ponds.

Tragedy in canadian halifax

In fact, the explosion near the village of Mesin was not a single, it was a series of explosions that led to the collapse of the front line of defense of the German troops. And if in this case such explosions could be justified by military necessity, then in December of that year the largest explosion of the pre-nuclear era shook the peaceful port city of Halifax. The transport vessel “Mont Blanc” that exploded off the coast was full of explosives. On board were about 2300 tons of dry and liquid picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 10 tons of pyroxylin and 35 tons of benzene in barrels.

The strongest non-nuclear explosions in history

Built in 1899, the auxiliary transport "Mont Blanc" could transport up to 3121 tons of cargo. The ship was built in England, but belonged to a French shipping company. The explosive was loaded aboard 25 on November 1917 of the year in the port of New York, the destination of the ship was France - the port of Bordeaux. An intermediate point on the transport route was Canadian Halifax, where the formation of convoys sent across the Atlantic took place.

"Mont Blanc" appeared on the outer raid of Halifax on the evening of December 5 1917. The next morning, at about 7 in the morning, the ship began to enter the port. At the same time, the ship Imo, belonging to Norway, left the port. When the ships got closer, both captains began to make risky maneuvers, which eventually led to the fact that Imo rammed the Mont Blanc into the starboard. As a result of the impact, several barrels containing benzene broke, and their contents spread over the transport. The captain of the steamer "Imo" reversed and managed to free his ship and leave safely. At the same time, when uncoupling two vessels as a result of friction of metal on metal, a sheaf of sparks arose, which ignited the benzene spreading along the “Mont Blanc”.

Knowing about the nature of the cargo on the ship, the captain of the "Mont Blanc" Le Medek gave the order to the crew to leave the ship. It was not necessary to persuade the sailors for a long time, all the crew members safely reached the shore, leaving the deadly cargo to themselves. As a result, the burning transport began to drift towards the coast, eventually leaning on a wooden pier in Richmond, one of the areas of Halifax. About the nature of the cargo on board the "Mont Blanc" in this Canadian city knew a few people. For this reason, virtually the entire population of a small town clung to the windows in the hope of better viewing the rare sight that represented the burning ship. On both sides of the strait, around which the city spread, onlookers began to gather.

A monstrous blast of power in 9 hours 6 minutes of the morning put an end to this “presentation”. The strength of the explosion is evidenced by the fact that the 100-kilogram piece of the ship’s frame was later found in the forest at a distance of 19 kilometers from the epicenter of the explosion, and the Niob cruiser 11 thousand tons displaced in the harbor cast the ship Kurak ashore . In the city of Truro, which was located 30 miles from Halifax, a shock wave smashed glass. In the district of 60 for miles in all the churches, the bells spontaneously rang from the blast wave.

According to official statistics, the 1963 man died as a result of the explosion in Halifax, and the order of the 2000 man was missing. Many of the wounded were frozen in the wreckage, as the temperature dropped sharply the next day, and a strong storm began. Someone just burned alive, as fires started all over the city, which burned for several days. In the three schools of the city from 500 students, only 11 survived. About 9 thousands of people were injured, including 500 lost their sight after being hit by shattered window glass. At the same time, the northern part of the city, the Richmond area, was almost completely obliterated from the explosion. In total, 1600 buildings were completely destroyed in Halifax, 12 thousands more were severely damaged, at least 25 thousands people lost their homes.

The explosion on the island of Helgoland

The Second World War gave the world a string of powerful new non-nuclear explosions. Most of them related to the death of battleships and aircraft carriers of the warring parties. The point in the series of these sea tragedies was set by the explosion of the Japanese battleship Yamato 7 on April 1945, when the main-caliber cellar detonated, the explosion was equivalent to 500 tons of trotyl. Not without tragedies like the one that occurred in Halifax. 17 July 1944 in the United States in the port city of Port Chicago, an explosion occurred while loading ammunition on board vehicles. The mushroom cloud rose to a height of about three kilometers, the power of the explosion was about 2 kt in TNT equivalent, which was comparable to the port explosion in Halifax 6 December 1917 of the year, whose power was estimated at 3 kt.

However, even these explosions faded before the one that was created by human hands on the German island of Helgoland in the North Sea. This explosion was a real echo of the war, it changed the face of the island forever, but it didn’t take a single human life, as it was planned. After the defeat of Germany in the Second World War, the entire population of the island was evacuated, and the British decided to destroy all the remaining fortifications of the submarine base of the Third Reich, as well as conduct seismic studies.

Along the way, they solved the problem with the disposal of a large amount of ammunition that remained with them after the end of the war. The explosion was made on 18 on April 1947. At this point, thousands of torpedo warheads, 4 thousands of deep-water bombs and 9 thousand grenades of various calibers, a total of 91 tons of various explosives, were brought to the island. The undermining of these munitions, which had been preparing for several weeks, formed a mushroom cloud that had risen to the sky to a height of 6700 meters. The explosion was so powerful that it was able to register even in Sicily. The explosion on the island of Helgoland was registered in the Guinness Book of Records as the most powerful non-nuclear explosion in stories. The detonation in the explosion released energy, which was comparable to the atomic bomb power 1 / 3, which the Americans dropped on Hiroshima.

The British had planned that the island would be completely destroyed as a result of the explosion, but it survived. But its shape has been changed forever. The entire southern part of the island Helgoland has become a huge crater, which today is an attractive destination for tourists. After the explosion, the British used the island as a testing ground for training bombings for several more years, returning it to Germany in the 1950s. Practical Germans were able to rebuild the island in a few years, opening for it a new stage of cultural and tourist life.

Tests "Sailor Hat"

The largest in the history of non-nuclear explosions include a series of tests as part of the operation of the US Navy, codenamed Sailor Hat (literally a sailor's hat). This is a series of tests that were conducted in 1965 on the island of Kahoolava (Hawaii). The purpose of the test was to determine the impact of the shock wave of high-power explosions on warships and equipment installed on them. As part of the operation, research was also conducted in the field of underwater acoustics, seismology, meteorology, and radio wave propagation.

Each test involved the explosion of large (500 tons) charges of explosives. At the same time, the explosive was stacked quite interestingly - with a hemispherical stack, which consisted of 3 millions of 150-gram trotyl sticks. The explosions were carried out in close proximity to the nearby ships. At the same time, with each new test, they approached closer and closer to the site of the explosion. A total of three explosions were carried out: February 6 1965 of the year “Bravo”, 16 April 1965 of the year “Charlie” and 19 June 1965 of the year “Delta”. These explosions are well characterized by the phrase - money down the drain. In 1965 prices of the year, 500 tons of explosives cost 1 a million US dollars.

The impact of the explosions on the internal equipment of the ships was recorded on special high-speed cameras. The tests carried out showed that the strength of the explosions was enough to destroy the steel mounts and throw off rather heavy radar equipment from its pedestals. But, despite the seriousness of the damage, the warships remained afloat. In addition, during the tests, the blast wave destroyed two observational airships.

Based on materials from open sources
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  1. Koshchei
    Koshchei 17 March 2016 06: 54
    That is, the explosion at Kronstadt Fort Pavel and the explosion at the port of Bakaritsa are weak, or are there only imported explosions?
    1. Amurets
      Amurets 17 March 2016 10: 11
      Quote: Koshchei
      That is, the explosion at Kronstadt Fort Pavel and the explosion at the port of Bakaritsa are weak, or are there only imported explosions?

      And the explosions of steamboats Dalstroy in Nakhodka and General Vatutin in Nagaevo?. This is a link to the materials.
  2. UVB
    UVB 17 March 2016 08: 34
    And the explosion near Ufa on June 4.06, 1989 on the railway at the time of the passage of two Novosibirsk-Adler trains as a result of a leak on the main gas pipeline? According to various estimates, the volume explosion power was up to 12 kilotons!
    1. The comment was deleted.
    OPERATOR 17 March 2016 09: 00
    The Sevastopol explosion of 1942 in a piggy bank.
    This is about Inkerman adits.
  4. oborzevatel
    oborzevatel 17 March 2016 09: 29
    But what about this?
    In 1991. at NIIP-53 a shock wave test ("Shift") was carried out
    Two launchers and a command post of the BZHRK were tested.
    The test objects were located: one (launcher with an electric missile launcher loaded in it, as well as a missile defense) - at a distance of 850 m from the center of the explosion, the other (second launcher) - at a distance of 450 m from the butt to the center of the explosion.
    The shock wave with TNT equivalent of 1000 tons (Karl!) Did not affect the performance of the rocket and launcher. "

    somewhere at 4:25 to watch

    At a test site in Plesetsk, 650 meters from a missile train, 100 anti-tank mines were blown out from warehouses in eastern Germany and laid down with a 20-meter pyramid.
    At the site of the explosion, a funnel of diameters of 80 meters was formed, the sound pressure level in the inhabited compartments of the BZHRK reached a pain threshold (150 decibels), one of the launchers showed disarming. But after a reboot of the on-board computer complex, the rocket was launched.
    1. north67
      north67 17 March 2016 19: 28
      true truth. I unloaded these mines. 3 months the fish was not caught.
  5. Manul
    Manul 17 March 2016 11: 47
    What an interesting informative article! Many thanks to the author! And thanks to colleagues for the added facts!
    That is, the explosion at Kronstadt Fort Pavel and the explosion at the port of Bakaritsa are weak, or are there only imported explosions? (Форт ПАвел)


    %BF%D0%BE%D1%80%D1%82%D0%B0%D1%85-1916-1917-%D0%B3%D0%B3.143/ "Барон Дризен"
    And the explosion near Ufa June 4.06, 1989 on the railway
    The explosion near Ufa

    Guys, links! Links !! Do not be lazy !!! hi
  6. abrakadabre
    abrakadabre 17 March 2016 12: 53
    A couple of years ago I read and watched a video on YouTube about tests at our training ground in Kazakhstan. A thousand tons of explosives were laid. Also in the hemisphere.
  7. Raider
    Raider 17 March 2016 13: 43
    A film from an airplane on the explosion on a German island and by the Americans in the form of a sphere, like it was once posted on "VO". I’ll find and write.
  8. Parmalan
    Parmalan 17 March 2016 14: 19
    Explosion of 500 t TNT - Navy test "Sailor Hat"
  9. ivanovich
    ivanovich 17 March 2016 14: 31
    article is not very informative, there is no powerful explosion in the Chinese city of Tianjin in 2015

    another explosion in Donetsk during the fighting
    1. UVB
      UVB 17 March 2016 16: 00
      Quote: ivanovich
      article is not very informative, there is no powerful explosion in the Chinese city of Tianjin in 2015
      It seems to me that this is just a reprint, this article was already in VO 4-5 years ago, if memory serves. And not all and not the most powerful explosions are described.
      1. Manul
        Manul 18 March 2016 00: 13
        Quote: UVB
        It seems to me that this is just a reprint, this article was already in VO 4-5 years ago, if memory serves. And not all and not the most powerful explosions are described.

        So everything is in our hands to supplement the shortcomings. If the article is perfect, in principle, it means there should not be a single comment - everything is already clear.
  10. Andrewgross
    Andrewgross 17 March 2016 15: 14
    I would add an explosion on April 20, 1944 in Bergen
  11. Sargaras
    Sargaras 17 March 2016 15: 28
    Another explosion in Arzamas in 1988, when a train with explosives destined for mining operations exploded.
  12. Ustinov 055 055
    Ustinov 055 055 17 March 2016 16: 30
    Interesting facts and thanks for all the links
  13. shturman032
    shturman032 17 March 2016 21: 10
    From the times of the Second World War, it is worth mentioning the digging on the "Zaitseva Gora", the funnel from the explosion has been preserved to this day. The Germans were turned into mince there by an explosion. Perhaps on Saturday I will drive there, I will take a photo of the funnel
    1. Manul
      Manul 18 March 2016 00: 14
      Quote: shturman032
      Maybe on Saturday I’ll drive there, I’ll take a photo of the funnel

      I will look in the branch. Interesting!
    2. Manul
      Manul 18 March 2016 12: 37
      Quote: shturman032
      digging on the "Zaitseva Hill"
  14. bootlegger
    bootlegger 18 March 2016 18: 00
    What I remember from childhood. According to the stories of relatives from Shatura.
    Kurovskaya. Forgotten explosion.
    Many remember the explosions of cars carrying explosives that occurred in 1988 at the Arzamas-1 and Sverdlovsk-sorting stations. But they were not the first - 10 years before them, another tragedy of a similar scale occurred.

    On the night of December 5 to 6, 1978, at 02:50, at the Kurovskaya station (east of the Moscow region), two wagons with industrial explosives exploded. There were very big damages at the station, many glasses were knocked out in the village, trees were felled. It's good that the time was night, and there were almost no people on the platform and in the station.

    On one of the tracks, a new electric train, the ER2-1169 train, defended itself before the morning flight. She took upon herself the shock of a blast wave, crushing several wagons. Subsequently, these distorted remains caused rumors that the train was arriving at the station with passengers at the time of the explosion, and there were many dead. But this is not so - the explosion occurred in the dead of night.

    Kurovskaya station is a large railway junction through which many different trains pass. Two wagons with explosives (about 249 tons of ammonite) were delivered at SMP 2 access roads for unloading at the Vzryvprom civil explosives warehouse, which was located near the station. On the night of December 60-5, at 6:2 a.m., suddenly the whole load detonated, which caused a huge explosion.
    As a result, a funnel with a diameter of 60 and a depth of 10 meters was formed on the site of the cars. The station was heavily damaged, which actually paralyzed the movement of trains, as the tracks were bombarded with various debris. The shock wave caused destruction not only at the station itself, but also in the neighboring city of Kurovskoye. In particular, windows were smashed in residential buildings on the neighboring Vokzalnaya and Sverdlova streets, and in some houses, even interior partitions were demolished by an explosion. The forest adjacent to the tracks was tumbled down. Also near the site of the explosion was a completely new (built a couple of months before) suburban electric train ER2-1169, which took over the main force of the explosion, as a result of which 12 were destroyed from its 10 cars. As a result of the accident, 2 people died - a watchman and a boiler worker.
    Explosion cause
    A government commission headed by the First Secretary of the Moscow Regional Committee of the CPSU V.I. Konotop arrived at the scene of the explosion. As a result of the investigation, it was found that the explosion of the wagons caused a watchman who suffered from schizophrenia, but managed to hide this from medical commissions. This watchman, for undetermined reasons, shot towards the wagons, as a result of which a bullet, breaking through the wooden casing, fell into the load, which caused his explosion

    Although, in my opinion, the detonation of ammonite from a shot is impossible. I do not really believe in this reason ..
  15. Warrior2015
    Warrior2015 19 March 2016 01: 03
    One of the largest explosions is also considered the explosion after the detonation of the main arsenal of the super battleship Yamato. Photo of a photo from an American aircraft from the air group that participated in the sinking. Seemingly small ships nearby are cruisers.
  16. Bormanxnumx
    Bormanxnumx 20 March 2016 16: 00
    Explosion in Bombay of the Steamboat Steamboat on April 14, 1944:
  17. 19001900
    19001900 21 March 2016 23: 27
    The explosion of Mont Blanc in Halifax is well described in the collection "How the steamer destroyed the city" (the tragedy in Halifax is devoted to the story of the same name), but even it pales in comparison with the explosion in Texas City from the same book (Ten thousand tons of grenade) or the explosion of saltpeter in Germany ... In general, I recommend this book to everyone; it describes many disasters associated with water transport. For example, a boat is equal in length to the width of the Titanic and took more people than he did when it died.