Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Mexico: Trinity Site

Trinity Site,White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

On two days a year, the military opens the Trinity Site to visitors - the first Saturday in April and the first Saturday in October.

On October 6, I went to the site. I overhead an official say that between 2000-2200 people generally turn out for the semi-annual open houses.

Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

To put it all in a ramekin, the Trinity Site is where the first atomic bomb was tested. July 16, 1945.

Created what they called a glass crater. There is "trinitite" laying about on the site. Although visitors are instructed not to take any away, I suspect much has been removed regardless. I think below I got a photo of some trinitite. The green, glassy rock that is just right of center.

Trinitite, Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

The crater's since been filled in with sand, atop of which is an obelisk monument.

Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

The visit started in the morning at the back of Tularosa High School. There were maybe a hundred cars in the caravan? Most vehicles had NM plates, but there were representatives from Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, California, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Texas, and Michigan.

The "Alamogordo caravan" (which really is the Tularosa caravan) left about a quarter after 8:00 a.m. This caravan goes through the White Sands Missile Range, normally cut off from visitors.

We each received signs to put in our windshield.

Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

And we were off ....

Some people arrive at the site via other caravans, from Socorro or Las Cruces, for instance. You can also come on your own.

Cutting through the missile range land, it's about 85 miles to the site from Tularosa. This cuts off a large bit of mileage than if I'd have had to go around to Socorro and then to San Antonio (NM) and then down to the site. It takes close to two hours to get from Tularosa to the Trinity Site. 

There was a hot dog/burger concession set up. A line of porta-potties. A souvenir concession from the White Sands National Monument. Some atomic fans waving geiger counters across various items at their booth.  An information booth. A Trinity Site souvenir booth. (There was a Trinity Site tape measure, of all things.)

Along with many others, I walked to ground zero. Along the chain link fence surrounding the area were photos describing events and people related to the bomb.

Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

 Someone pointed out a blue-tailed skink.

Skink at Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

There was also something that looked like a cross between a toad and a lizard, but its coloring was so blended in with the brown/yellow grass, I was sure my camera wouldn't pick it up properly. It could have been a horny toad, which is actually a lizard. I'm not sure. I don't recall actual horns.

Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

I'm unsure how I feel about being at the Trinity Site. I do experience some cognitive dissonance in the low levels of radiation that exist there today (apparently) versus what we've had pounded into our psyches about how many eons it takes for radiation from an atomic bomb to go to "safe" levels. Does this mean I take away a sense that atomic weapons are "not that bad"? No. The take-away is my inability to reconcile two alleged realities.

Our return caravan was diminished to 34 vehicles from what I estimated to be about 100 vehicles in the morning. All of us were free to depart by the Stallion Gate and loop around to wherever our next destination was. Our return:

As an aside, there were hunters clustered at the entrance gate when we left the missile range on into Tularosa. A meat processing concession was set up by the gate. I had seen signs on the missile range road cautioning drivers about ... deer? No .... elk? No. ..... Oryx. Yes.

Credit: D'Oh Boy

There'll be more on New Mexico's oryx and ibexes and other alien animals in a future story. 

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