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The Firecracker Boys by Dan O'Neill

The Firecracker Boys

by Dan O'Neill

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754160,370 (4.14)8



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My second time to read the book, this time as a preface to walking the coast from Kivalina to Point Hope, a trip I expect to take in two weeks (August 2014). The book is flat out excellent. A superb accounting of life in Alaska, the environmental movement, and the duplicity of all governments. About six weeks or so ago I ran into a fellow who said his brother did all the research for the book and Dan O'Neil got the glory. Wish I could remember who it was.... ( )
  untraveller | Jul 30, 2014 |
Living in Alaska, by the time I started to show interest in "The Firecracker Boys" a lot of the people I know ad already read it. Most of them said that it was very interesting, but also dry. I agree only partially with this statement. The story about American scientists wanting to blow up a hole (supposedly to make a harbor) on the coast of Alaska using nuclear bombs sounds almost taken out of a badd sci-fi movie. So, knowing that this almost happened, and all the institutional lies that accompanied this "project" makes your blood run cold.
The way in which some people actually lost their jobs fighting against this possible disaster makes one believe again in humankind.
It is true that there is an impressing amount of detail, scientific, social, and political, but the strenth of the story makes for a very easy read. Thumbs up for Dan O'Neill. ( )
  olgalijo | Sep 29, 2011 |
An extremely interesting book about a strange series of events in Alaska during the Cold War.

Edward Teller was a well-known theoretical physicist, "father of the hydrogen bomb", and a pro-weapons activist who promoted various expensive and ultimately failed military technologies, such as Reagan's Star Wars initiative. Teller felt that nuclear bombs should be developed at pretty much whatever the cost, and he loathed efforts to halt nuclear testing. In 1952 he founded the government-sponsored Lawrence Radiation Laboratory (later renamed Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), where he pushed the use of thermonuclear bombs for changing the geography of the Earth. Yes, that's right: to move and reform features of the world using fission or, preferably, fusion (hydrogen) bombs.

Teller's pet project: to use nukes to dredge a replacement for the Panama Canal. (He also wanted to send nukes to the moon to see what would happen.) To test for the canal, he proposed blasting a harbor at a small creek on Alaska's North Slope (not far from the Soviet Union - and this in the 1950s) by burying and setting off a string of five large hydrogen bombs. Teller toured the state, trying to sell the idea despite all evidence that there was no economic benefit to be had in an area far from natural resources and where the harbor would be frozen most of the year. Many Alaskans were in favor, including powerful politicians, news editors, and university officials. Only a small group of nearby villagers, supported by a few scientists studying effects on the local biota (including humans) and environmentalists, found much to challenge, and pointed questions were put to Teller and his staff. A tape of a meeting at the nearby village of Point Hope, the focal point of protests, recorded AEC representatives using hyper-technical jargon (in English) to gloss over concerns expressed by locals, most of whom spoke little or no English. They dismissed all fears of fallout and damage to water, air, animals, or health, and they promised the village wouldn't even notice the detonation. Villagers were assured that hunting and fishing would be interrupted only briefly, and rumors that Pacific tests had caused problems for indigenous groups were denied. Probably needless to say, these declarations were blatantly untrue. Operation Chariot was eventually put in abeyance (although never canceled), but as revealed in long-concealed documents released to the author during his research, the government did contaminate the area with radioactive experiments and dumping.

Well-worth the read, but be sure to get the updated edition published in 2007. The author follows up on the main players and comments on why his research would not have been possible if he'd written after George W. Bush's policy changes regarding document secrecy. There is a lengthy and detailed footnote section, as well as a bibliography, maps, and an index. Almost every page had my jaw dropping, and anyone nearby would have heard a frequent They did WHAT??? And one question I kept asking myself was: what happened to the residents and neighbors of Nevada, where so many, many detonations occurred between 1951 and 1992? ( )
7 vote auntmarge64 | Jan 17, 2011 |
An excellent book. Well written, well researched, and a very interesting topic. ( )
  dpf | Nov 10, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312134169, Paperback)

In 1958, Edward Heller, father of the H-bomb, unveiled his plan to detonate six nuclear bombs off the Alaskan coast to create a new harbor. However, the plan was blocked by a handful of Eskimos and biologists, who succeeded in preventing massive nuclear devastation potentially far greater than that of the Chernobyl blast. An unprecedented account of one of the most shocking chapters of the Nuclear Age.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:02 -0400)

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A fat-burning exercise routine incorporating hand-weights, covering upper body, lower body, and abs.

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