Nuclear Information Centre

Ghost Trident




Nic Pehkonen, Ghost Trident, 2022 [Horticultural fleece and yellow gardening string (8 x knotted, hanging elements each approx 2m tall)]

The UK’s continuous at sea [nuclear] deterrent (CASD), also known as Operation Relentless, has been running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year since April 1969. At any given moment, one of four Vanguard class, Trident missile armed submarines is out on active patrol, somewhere in the world’s oceans, silent, undetected, and ready to strike at any time, according to the Royal Navy.

Each of the eight Trident 2 D5 missiles on board carries up to five ~100 kiloton warheads. (For comparison, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 each had an explosive yield of around 16 kilotons).

In this exhibit, the missiles are presented in the same vertical-parallel configuration in which they are deployed in the submarines with each warhead represented by a single knot. Whether we realise it or not, we are all entangled participants in the UK’s nuclear deterrence strategy which, according to the UK Government, exists “to deter the most extreme threats to our national security and way of life, helping to guarantee our safety, and that of our NATO allies”.

Crucially, the knots themselves are of the simplest kind and being only loosely tied have the potential to be undone with relative ease, should the decision be taken to do so.

The missiles are intentionally presented as human-size but hung and free to move as ghostly apparitions or perhaps, more starkly, as white death-markers. The audience is invited to explore in amongst the missiles where the possibility of actual physical contact with a weapon of mass destruction (in the imaginary sense) is very real.

Key numbers: 4, 5, 8, 16, 24, 100, 365.

Information last updated: Tue 13 Dec 2022