On the evening of May 28, 1993, something caused a huge disturbance out in the Western Australian outback. Something which sent shockwaves across hundreds of kilometres of desert. On that same night, truckies and locals in the general area reported seeing bright flashes through the night sky and the distant sound of explosions.
Seismic readings found that the source of the blast was 170 times larger than the largest mining explosion recorded in the region, and that the source could have been virtually anywhere within a vast expanse of mostly empty desert.
It’s one of those largely inconsequential mysteries which might be attributed to any number of things and then forgotten, if not for one puzzling complication. Aum Shinrikyo, the cult behind the Tokyo sarin gas attacks of 1995, owned a large property not far removed from where sightings of the event were reported.
You might ask what business a Japanese terrorist doomsday cult might have owning a remote Australian cattle station. This would be a fair question. As authorities came to find, Aum Shinrikyo were doing far more than tending to sheep at Banjawarn Station – they were quite likely testing the chemical product they eventually used to kill at least 20 people in gas attacks in Japan.
It wasn’t until the sarin gas attacks that West Australian geologist Harry Mason raised a curious prospect: was the disturbance back in 1993 somehow related to Aum Shinrikyo? More disturbingly still: did they detonate a nuclear bomb out there?
It’s a fairly frightening prospect. To date, there is no concrete evidence of any non-state actor getting their hands on a nuke – and the thought that a murderous cult might have done so isn’t a reassuring thought.
Mason’s nuke theory, despite being spearheaded mostly by himself, and carrying more than a slight whiff of crankery, was considered very seriously by everyone from international media outlets, to US Senate investigators.
A report in the New York Times from 1997 covered the curious incident in some detail, including what US investigators were able to determine about the event.
The conclusions? A nuke was unlikely, considering the geological signature of the disturbance. But an earthquake was also somewhat unlikely. As was a meteor collision, given no crater was ever discovered.
What happened out there? Tune into this week’s episode of All Aussie Mystery Hour, where we talk about the various theories surrounding the disturbance, the Aum Shinrikyo cult and Banjawarn station, nuclear weapons, and the general weirdness of it all.
You can listen below, or head to iTunes HERE or Spotify HERE to subscribe if you haven’t already.