Tag Archives: Trinity Site

Trinitite from Trinity Site


Don't steal the trinitite

Don’t steal the trinitite

Trinitite is the glassy substance that resulted from the atomic bomb test at Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, on July 16, 1945.  It’s somewhat rare, hard to get hold of, and illegal to acquire directly from Trinity Site.  If you want a legal piece, you must acquire it from someone who collected a sample before trinitite harvesting from Trinity Site became illegal way back in the 1950s.

Plaque explaining radiation levels at Trinity Site — Yes, it's L-O-W

Plaque explaining radiation levels at Trinity Site — Yes, it’s L-O-W

Trinitite is composed mostly of the sand and earth that was fused together during the blast, but samples may also contain remnants of The Gadget, the shot tower, and even the instruments used to measure the effects of the explosion.

Shot Tower footings still evident

Shot Tower footings still evident

If you’re determined to own a piece of trinitite be prepared to spend some money on it, and especially watch out for fake pieces floating around the market.

Trinitite Viewing

Trinitite Viewing

If you just want to view some trinitite you’re in luck.  There is quite a collection on display when Trinity Site is open to the public.

Samples of trinitite on view at Trinity Site

Samples of trinitite on view at Trinity Site

Those wanting to own a piece can acquire one at the Blanchard Rock Shop (website link; Facebook page link) on U.S. Highway 380 some seventeen miles east of the Stallion Gate entrance to White Sands Missile Range, or twenty-nine miles east of the Interstate 10 exit at San Antonio, New Mexico where we began this adventure.  It is from Blanchard that I acquired my own piece of trinitite several years ago, before we made this journey to Trinity Site October 3, 2015.

Most genuine trinitite will have a pebbly surface on one side and a smooth, glassy-looking appearance on the opposite side.  The smooth surface is the area that directly faced the full wrath of the explosion, whereas the pebbly side faced away from the intense nuclear fireball.

Here is a view of the rough side of my personal example of trinitite:

Trinitite owned by the author

Trinitite owned by the author

And here is the glassy surface:

Trinitite owned by the author

Trinitite owned by the author

I hope you enjoyed our visit to Trinity Site, the McDonald Ranch, and a showing of trinitite samples.  As I said at the beginning of this two-week series, the reason I interrupted the series on our Chile-to-Los Angeles cruise was because of the upcoming April 2 Trinity Site Open House.  Starting next Monday we’ll continue our excursion along the South, Central, and North American coast with a look at our next destination beyond Paracas, Chile and Islas Ballestas — Lima, Peru.

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Trinity Site — the McDonald Ranch


The Schmidt-McDonald Ranch House

The Schmidt-McDonald Ranch House

In 1913 German immigrant Franz Schmidt built a piece of military and scientific history, although he didn’t know it at the time.  He built a ranch house.  That ranch house, and the 640-acre ranch upon which it sat, were acquired in the 1930s by the McDonald family.  In 1942 however the McDonalds were ordered out of their house and off their ranch as the land was “leased” from them and “temporarily” incorporated into the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range, which would later become the White Sands Missile Range.

Scrubland surrounding the McDonald Ranch House

Scrubland surrounding the McDonald Ranch House

So much for temporary, because in 1945 the Manhattan Project came to the ranch.  The water storage tank became a swimming pool for project personnel, and the house became something else altogether.  It became the site of the plutonium assembly room for The Gadget, and it was a mere two miles from Ground Zero.

Schmidt-McDonald Ranch House plaque

Schmidt-McDonald Ranch House plaque

This plutonium assembly room was previously the master bedroom of the house.  Workbenches were brought in.  The former bedroom was meticulously cleaned, and then sealed off with plastic and tape to prevent dust contamination.  Signs were posted admonishing all who entered to wipe off their shoes.

The master bedroom and plutonium assembly room

The master bedroom and plutonium assembly room

Plutonium Assembly Room

Plutonium Assembly Room

Despite being only two miles from Ground Zero the McDonald Ranch House suffered very little damage, mostly broken windows.  The damage came later as the house fell into neglect and disrepair.

Alas, the ranch was never returned to the McDonalds.  Even though the force lease ended in 1980, along with the payments being made to the McDonalds, the land was not returned to them.  But if the government thought it was going to end there, they were wrong.  In 1982 David McDonald and his niece staged an armed takeover of the ranch house.

Adobe and stone construction dating back to 1913

Adobe and stone construction dating back to 1913

In the end the armed standoff ended after only three days, and the McDonalds were finally compensated for the loss of their ranch, but not by much.  The ranch house, land, related structures, and grazing rights were valued at around $1,600,000.  The McDonalds walked off with only $60,000 in their pockets.

Oscura Mountains

Oscura Mountains as viewed from the McDonald Ranch

The ranch house has been restored and is today under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

Here are some  more ranch views including the bunkhouse, livestock pens, and the Aermotor Windmill tower:

McDonald Ranch House closeup

McDonald Ranch House closeup

Remains of the McDonald Ranch bunkhouse

Remains of the McDonald Ranch bunkhouse

Livestock pens

Livestock pens

Oscura Mountains and livestock pens

Oscura Mountains and livestock pens

Water tower for Aermoter Windmill

Water tower for Aermoter Windmill

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Trinity Site Historical Photographs — Part 2


The news breaks — Manhattan Project revealed

The news breaks — Manhattan Project revealed

Today I present more of the photo history affixed to the chain link fence surrounding Trinity Site.

Trinity Site Obelisk erected in 1965 — 20 years after the blast

Trinity Site Obelisk erected in 1965 — 20 years after the blast

The 1965 Open House and unveiling of the Obelisk

The 1965 Open House and unveiling of the Obelisk

This next series of photographs reveal the Trinity test explosion and its aftermath:

Detonation + .006 seconds

Detonation + .006 seconds

Detonation + .025 seconds

Detonation + .025 seconds

Detonation + .053 seconds

Detonation + .053 seconds

Just one tenth of a second after detonation

Just one tenth of a second after detonation

Characteristic mushroom cloud forming 15 seconds after detonation

Characteristic mushroom cloud forming 15 seconds after detonation

Shot tower remnants after the blast

Shot tower remnants after the blast

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