Saturday, January 22, 2011

It worked!

Trinity explosion July 16, 1945

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita... "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." - Dr. Robert Oppenheimer

The title of this article, "It worked!", is reported to be the less eloquent statement of Dr. Oppenheimer immediately following the Trinity explosion.

Without really setting out to do so, I have been a bit of a atomic tourist. Nancy and I have been to Hiroshima and stood at "ground zero" for the first atomic weapon used in war, the since named A-Bomb Dome. We have seen the Enola Gay which carried the bomb piloted by Paul Tibbets to it's destiny. We even have a small model of the Enola Gay autographed by Paul Tibbets before his death in 2007.

The A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima, Japan

It's a very surreal experience visiting these places that have had such a profound effect on the history of mankind. As you walk the streets of Hiroshima... the very streets that some 60 years ago were laid to waste and strewn with rubble and death... the streets that, in some areas, still bare the ghostly shadows of victims burned into the concrete... the streets that tell the terrible tale written by unleashing the power of the sun as a tool of war... Here, some 60 years later, hoards of Japanese students, all dressed in their school colors, move through these same streets as though they were flocks of birds all moving in unison. As they see and American tourist they all excitedly yell, "Hello!" to demonstrate their knowledge of English. A response of "Konnichiwa!" in return is met with excited laughter and many shouts of "Konnichiwa!" back at you.

The resilience of life is truly humbling.

The Memorial Cenotaph. Through it can be seen the A-Bomb dome in the background as well as the eternal flame and a chest containing all the names of the victims of the blast. On it the inscription reads, "Repose ye in peace, for the error shall not be repeated"

The Trinity Site, in White Sands Missile Range New Mexico is open to the public only twice a year on the first Saturday in April and again on the first Saturday in October. The site is on an active U.S. military base, so you will be asked to leave any items such as guns or alcohol at the gate. There is no storage at the gate for these items, so they are simply left at the side of the road. If you don't wish to leave any items like this on the side of the road, don't bring them with you.

Once through the gate you still have a several mile drive to reach the actual site. There is a large parking lot that can easily accommodate all types of RV's.

Our rig parked at the Trinity site.

Once there, you will have an opportunity to enter the "blast zone" where the first 19 kiloton atomic blast was unleashed on earth. What little is left of the 100 ft steel tower can still be seen as well as a "Fat Man" casing, many photos chronicling the event, and Trinitite can also be found littering the area. 

Trinitite is the green glass that was created by the intense heat of the blast. The Trinitite is slightly higher in radioactivity than the rest of the area so handle it at your discretion. It is also a federal offense to remove Trinitite from the area, so unless you're looking to do some federal time, I suggest you leave it there for the next person to discover.

This one I like to call, "Fat man in front of The Fat Man".

This is exactly what you should not do with Trinitite. Notice I am using my left hand. Since I am right handed, when this hand shrivels and falls off, I will not be totally debilitated.

You will also have an opportunity to view the McDonald ranch house, site of the first plutonium core assembly.

For those of you concerned with exposure to radiation, a one hour walk around "ground zero" (without handling Trinitite) is slightly less exposure to radiation than a coast to coast flight.

If you find yourself in the White Sands Missile range area on either of those two Saturdays per year, the Trinity site is a must do.

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