You Could Even Say It Glows

“When I was a cadet, far back in the days of Khrushchev, we set off a hydrogen device in the Arctic Sea. It was a hundred-megaton bomb, the largest ever detonated then or since. Actually, it was a fifty-megaton boomwarhead wrapped in a uranium case to double the yield. A very dirty bomb. We didn’t warn the Swedes or the Finns, and we certainly didn’t tell our own people who were drinking milk under this rain of fallout a thousand times worse than Chernobyl. We didn’t tell our fishermen who sailed in the Arctic Sea. I signed on as a third mate, and my mission was to use a Geiger counter without telling anyone else on board. We caught one shark that measured four hundred roentgens. What could I say to the captain—to throw his quota overboard? His crew would ask questions, and then the cry would spread. But we let the Americans know, and the result was that Kennedy was frightened enough to come to the table and sing a test-ban treaty.”

—Martin Cruz Smith, Polar Star


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When I Worked

March 2013
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