See stunning hi-res photos of the first underwater nuclear blast

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Feb 19, 2013, 11:27 AM EST

Even the immediate aftermath of a devastating nuclear explosion can be beautiful if you're looking from the right angle.

The photo above is a stunning view of the mushroom cloud created by Test Baker, one of two nuclear test explosions set off by the United States at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in 1946. The tests, collectively known as Operation Crossroads, were designed to observe how nuclear weapons affected naval vessels, but Baker is set apart because it was the first-ever nuclear explosion set off underwater. On July 25, 1946, the Baker nuclear device was suspended 90 feet underwater amid a fleet of target ships, then detonated. Because the explosion itself took place underwater, the blinding light of the blast was obscured, allowing photographers to get a clearer picture of the damage done.

As you might expect, the effect Baker had on the fleet of ships in its blast radius was devastating. The black spot on the right of the blast colum is the U.S. Navy battleship Arkansas being thrown into the air like a toy. Water pressure created by the blast severely damaged all of the ships in the target area, and all of them suffered major radiation contamination. Of course, the whole area where the blasts were set off was also contaminated, which proved an environmental nightmare, but since the late '90s the local government has declared the nearby islands safe to walk on, and today divers even enjoy exploring the sunken "ghost fleet" left behind by the Crossroads test.

Check out more photos from the Baker detonation, as well as video of the blast, below.

(Via PetaPixel)