Backs to the blast photograph The crew of HMNZS Pukaki sit on deck wearing protective overalls, hoods and goggles in readiness for a nuclear bomb blast. On the back of the photograph, it reads: Just before the blast. HMNZS Pukaki, just before the blast, [New Zealand Defence Force], 1957. AAO 0027. Crown Copyright, CC BY-NC…
Operation Grapple got underway in Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in 1957. New Zealand sent two naval frigates. This was symbolic of the close relationship between Britain and New Zealand and their two navies. New Zealand hoped that Britain’s development of nuclear weapons would reinforce New Zealand’s security status.
HMNZS Pukaki and Rotoiti left Auckland in March 1957. Their main purpose was to monitor the weather. Good weather conditions were essential to successful nuclear tests. However, they had a covert job, too. They were to monitor the test area for spy submarines. The two ships swapped positions throughout the series of tests, taking turns at being closer to the points of detonation.
Although New Zealand supported the entire programme, there was growing concern at home and abroad, particularly in Pacific nations, about the effects of nuclear tests. The final of nine Operation Grapple tests took place on 23 September 1958.
Explore the resources on this website to learn more about what happened during this time period.