Saturday, April 7, 2012

Visiting Ground Zero

The effects could well be called unprecedented, magnificent, beautiful, stupendous and terrifying. No man-made phenomenon of such tremendous power had ever occurred before.
General Thomas Farrell, Deputy to Gen. Leslie Groves

I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.
Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, Director of Los Alamos

Now we are all sons-of-bitches.
Dr. Kenneth Bainbridge, Director of Trinity Test
Trinity Site
A National Historic Landmark
White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
where the world's first Nuclear Device was exploded on
July 16, 1945

The Trinity Site is located at White Sands Missile Range. The site is only open two days a year - the first Saturday in April and the first Saturday in October. Thomas and I have wanted to visit this site for a while now but something always came up. But this time we planned and made sure nothing could make us cancel this trip. We left Santa Fe on Friday and spent the night in Socorro so that we wouldn't have to make the drive early in the morning. We left the hotel around 8:00am and drove the 8 miles to San Antonio and US Hwy 380. From there it was another 12 miles to the turnoff for the Stallion Range Center and we still had to drive about 5 miles to the entrance. At the entrance they checked our ID's, gave us an infomation booklet and instructions not to take pictures except at ground zero. We still had another 17 miles to the parking area for the site, but it went by quickly. I had done some reading and looked at some pictures on the net so I had an idea of what to expect and I knew that there really wasn't a whole lot to see. But I still wanted to visit the site and here we were.

Next to the parking area there is a set up with an information booth, vendors selling 'stuff' and some food tables. There is also "Jumbo" sitting out front. This is the casing that held the plutonium core for the device. The casing is steel and about six inches think and big enough to walk through it as a tunnel. Next to the entrance gate to the site is a mileage sign with distances to cities in the area and there is also a sign post with directions to Ground Zero, Toilets, Ranch Bus and Stallion & US 380. We decided to take the quarter mile walk to Ground Zero first. There are a couple of markers explaining Ground Zero and Radiation at the Site. After reading these we then walked to the obelisk that marks the point of explosion. The bomb was sitting atop a 100 foot tall tower when it was detonated. The entire tower was obliterated except for one of the footings (which is still visible). There is also a shelter that is protecting a protion of the original crater and the casing that held the Fatman bomb. When you walk around the area you can still find Trinitite on the ground. It is a green glass that was formed from the sand when the blast occurred. It is named Trinitite because the Trinity was the name of the first atomic bomb test. The Trinitite is radioactive. Along one portion of the fence that encloses the site are pictures that show the base camp, the staging area, the people involved in the test, the actual blast occurring and the aftermath. After spending about 30 minutes walking around and reading all about the site we returned to the information area and picked up some brochures and I got my National Passport Cancellation Stamp for the site. We also got a few postcards and a patch.

Next we boarded the bus for the McDonald House where they actually assembled the plutonium core. We had to wait a while because a caravan of over 150 cars was coming in from Alamogordo. The had followed a military escort through White Sands Missile Range to get to the site. Once the last car entered the bus was able to take us the two miles to the house. Here they had some displays showing what the did in each room to get the bomb ready for the test. We only spent aobut 10to 15 minutes here before taking the next bus back to the parking area. Like I said earlier there isn't a whole lot to see but I still felt it was very interesting and very historical and glad we made it out there. Below are some links for more detailed information about the area.

Trinity Site at White Sands Missile Range
Trinity Site
The Trinity Site
Trinity Site New Mexico
Trinity Site, New Mexico - A National Historic Landmark
Trinity Atomic Web Site
Detonation of the First Atomic Bomb at the Trinity Site, 1945