Tag Archives: White Sands

Trinity Site Historical Photographs — Part 1


The Gadget — assembled and positioned atop the shot tower

The Gadget — assembled and positioned atop the shot tower

Don’t just look at the Fat Man replica and the Ground Zero obelisk when you arrive at Trinity Site.  Spend some time along the perimeter fence for a fascinating look at the history of the Manhattan Project, the men behind it, and the war against Japan in the Pacific Theater:

Army engineers who maintained power and water at Trinity

Army engineers who maintained power and water at Trinity

The Trinity Site Polo Team using police horses, broomsticks, and a volley ball

The Trinity Site Polo Team using police horses, broomsticks, and a volley ball

Jumbo

Jumbo

McDonald Ranch

McDonald Ranch

100 tons of TNT stacked for a calibration test on May 7, 1945

100 tons of TNT stacked for a calibration test on May 7, 1945

10,000-yard/9,144-meter south observation bunker

10,000-yard/9,144-meter south observation bunker

Aerial view of Schmidt-McDonald Ranch

Aerial view of Schmidt-McDonald Ranch

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Trinity Ground Zero and Fat Man


Ground Zero marker

Ground Zero marker

You’ll know when you get to Ground Zero at Trinity Site.  It’s marked by the twelve-foot tall lava rock obelisk you see above.  The Gadget was hoisted atop a 100-foot/30-meter “shot tower” above this precise location for the July 16, 1945 test.  The Gadget was a plutonium device that was the basis for the Fat Man device dropped on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945.  There’s even a replica of Fat Man onsite:

Mock-up of Fat Man — the device detonated over Nagasaki

Mock-up of Fat Man — the device detonated over Nagasaki

Gadget's plutonium core was the basis for Fat Man

Gadget’s plutonium core was the basis for Fat Man

Remember Jumbo from Monday’s blog post?  Pictured below is a plaque explaining all about this $12,000,000 piece of discarded steel, with photos of Jumbo intact and with its nine-inch plates bonded over the six-inch thick inner container.  The 214-ton Jumbo was hoisted beneath a 30-foot/9-meter tower some 2,600 feet/800 meters from the shot tower.  Jumbo survived the explosion relatively intact.

Plaque describing Jumbo

Plaque describing Jumbo

Should you think your visit to Trinity Site will be a lonely one then you’re in for a shock.  There were hundreds of vehicles parked beyond the chain link fence that cordons off the area, and many hundreds of people milling about.

Doing that Touristy thing at Ground Zero

Doing that Touristy thing at Ground Zero

You’ll notice visitors strolling around the perimeter fence.  They’re perusing small photo plaques describing the events leading up to the Trinity explosion and what occurred here that day.  I’ll be presenting to you photos of these plaques on Friday and next Monday.  The buses in the background of the below photograph transport visitors to the nearby McDonald Ranch, which you’ll get to see in next Wednesday’s blog post.

Ground Zero marker and the Oscura and Capitan Mountains

Ground Zero marker and the Oscura (foreground range) and Capitan (background range) Mountains

This is a closeup of the Trinity Site Obelisk and its plaque:

Trinity Site — Ground Zero

Trinity Site — Ground Zero

Until Friday I leave you with one more image of Fat Man that will give you an idea of the size of this 10,300-pound/4,670-kilogram device:

Fat Man

Fat Man

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Trinity, Jumbo, and the Gadget


Still radioactive over seventy years later

Still radioactive over seventy years later

Twice a year there’s an obscure area of scrubland at the north end of the White Sands Missile Range that is opened to the public.  Access is tightly controlled.  Vehicles are monitored.  Guards are posted along the way to direct you.  Photography en route to and from this remote site is prohibited.  You are about to tour Ground Zero for the world’s first nuclear bomb, a.k.a., “The Gadget“.  Welcome to Trinity Site:

Trinity Site

Trinity Site

Trinity is open for public access annually on the first Saturday in April and October.  For this year — 2016 — that would be Saturday, April 2 and October 1.  The easiest way to get to Trinity is on U.S. Route 380 eastbound off Interstate 25 just south of Socorro, New Mexico, or westbound on U.S. Route 380 from Carrizozo, New Mexico, to the Stallion Gate entrance (12 miles east of San Antonio, NM; 53 miles west of Carrizozo, NM) sometime between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M., at which time that entrance is closed.  The alternative is to arrive early in the morning at the Tularosa High School before 8:00 A.M. and caravan in to Trinity under escort, which requires another escorted caravan back out from the site at between 12:30 and 1:00 P.M.  The site is closed to all visitors at 3:30.  As you can see, that makes the unescorted Stallion Gate route the more visitor friendly route.  A word of caution:  measure the distances I cited from San Antonio or Carrizozo.  The entrance is poorly marked and easily missed.

That means YOU!

Starting today and over both this week and next I’ll be showing you not only Trinity Site, but also the McDonald Ranch House where the project scientists stayed, and where the plutonium assembly room for the bomb is located.  I’ll also show you trinitite — glass-like, greenish, mildly radioactive fused sand and earth created by the heat of the nuclear explosion.

Trinity Site-029

Ground Zero

Today I’m go to show you Jumbo.  Jumbo was a gigantic steel container that originally weighed 214 tons/194 metric tons and measured ten feet/three meters wide by 25 feet/7.6 meters long.  It’s not that big anymore, and neither does it still weigh 214 tons.  It was also much thicker than you see here.  This is the six-inch thick inner container.  Originally bonded to that were another nine inches of steel plating.

The remains of Jumbo

The remains of Jumbo

Jumbo was originally designed as a containment for The Gadget, in case the conventional explosive failed to set off the plutonium core.  But as Manhattan Project scientists grew more confident that The Gadget would indeed work, Jumbo was instead suspended from a tower some 2,600 feet/800 meters from Ground Zero just to see what would happen to it.  It survived relatively intact, although you wouldn’t know that looking at these pictures.  That damage to Jumbo was done two years later when the Army attempted to destroy their $12,000,000 unused container to keep Congress from asking embarrassing questions about the unnecessary expense.  Eight 500-pound/227-kilogram bombs were placed inside Jumbo and detonated, but that only succeeded in blowing off the ends.

Jumbo's six-inch thick inner steel wall

Jumbo’s six-inch thick inner steel wall

We’ll continue our tour on Wednesday.  Meanwhile, remember The Twilight Zone?

There's a Sign Post up ahead; Your Next Stop — The Twilight Zone

There’s a Sign Post up ahead; Your Next Stop — The Twilight Zone

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