Easter Weekend Roadtrip: A radiating morning at Trinity Site

Shortly before Easter, Christina put together a trip to Southern New Mexico. Primarily, to camp in White Sands during the full moon night and head down to the Carlsbad Caverns. Even though, I had been to White Sands before, I was more than excited to join the trip. Our Facebook event blew up a bit and we were looking at a list of 17 participants. As we only had two cars, we made big plans to rent a car to fit all of us in there.

When the cold early morning of April 4th broke, only 10 people gathered and we had an extra rental car. Luckily we could return it and were left with a smaller group. In Christina’s and Fritz’s cars we headed down south. Now if you remember my post about the trip to White Sands at the very beginning of my time in Albuquerque, you might remember a note on passing Trinity Site.

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It is only possible to access the actual Trinity Site on two days each year. Luckily, April 4th, 2015 was the spring open house day. After some discussion we decided to head in. The line to get to the site is quite long and we were queueing – in cars… obviously… #murica –  for about two hours until we finally reached the gates to the military zone. We were given some information leaflets and could proceed. The parking lot was overflowing with cars and we were surprised how well-frequented it was. Not in a way of being surprised that people are interested in seeing the Trinity Site, but rather that so many people made their way down to this vacant part of the state.

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When walking from the parking lot to the Trinity Site, there is a large metal tube on the right hand side. This tube originally sat around the Atomic bomb. An atomic bomb detonation consists of two explosion. There first is a conventional chemical explosion e.g. TNT, followed by the nuclear explosion. In this process, the conventional explosion provides the power needed to trigger the nuclear reaction. However, as this was the first Atomic bomb, they were not sure if the chemical explosion was sufficient. Thus, the bomb was placed in the metal tube so that in case of an unsuccessful nuclear reaction, the precious and dangerous plutonium would not spread throughout the Jornada Del Muerto desert. The bomb in the tube was nicknames Jumbo. Because this certainly was a jumbo. Just look at this picture of us standing in what is left of the metal tube.

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From the tube we walked to Ground Zero. After the explosion in 1945, the sand in the desert was molten into green class, now known as trinitite or Alamogordo glass. I had read about this before and was excited to see some of it in the desert. However, years of visitors, wear and tear and other influences have taken away much of it and what was left was secured by the military. But there was a table that showed small pieces of trinitite to the public and also allowed willing people to measure the radioactive contamination of the trinitite and the surroundings with a Geiger-Müller-count. I was surprised how low the count actually was.

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There is an obelisk at the point where the hundred foot tower stood. Jumbo was placed on top of this tower but the radiation heat of the explosion cause the tower to melt and crumble. Today, you can only find some remains of the foundations in the ground.

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The obelisk also holds a plaque remembering July 16, 1945, the day of the nuclear test.

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On the fence around ground zero, pictures of the Manhattan Project and the explosion are hung up and allow the visitor to get more insights into the processes.

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Further, there also is a dummy of Fat Man the nuclear weapon that was dropped in Nagasaki, less than one month after the first test.

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Back at the parking lot, we then took a bus that brought us to the McDonald Ranch House. This house was used to assemble the nuclear head once the plutonium was delivered in the desert.

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