22nd September, 1979, a US Atomic Energy Detection System satellite recorded a pattern of flashes over the Indian Ocean. Moments later an unusual disturbance was detected by an observatory in Puerto Rico. Something violent and explosive had occured off the Southern tip of Africa in the ocean.

Data from the satellite Vela 6911 strongly suggested a nuclear device. However despite this match in data there was no one laying claim to the origin of the blast.

Vela’s incident occurred near Bouvet Island, a frozen scrap of earth, an Island home to a Norwegian automated weather station. Other than this landmark the only other thing noted about it was that in 1964 an abandoned lifeboat was found full of supplies drifting there.  Bouvet Island itself was discovered on 1st January 1739, by Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier a commander for the French ships Aigle and Mari.

No one had laid claim to the tests/blast, despite rumours it may have been Israel. It’s possible that one day we will know.

For the pop-culture interest a take on this event was used in The West Wing in the episode “The Warfare of Genghis Khan”.

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