TRINITY SITE, A HALF-CENTURY AFTER THE WORLD'S FIRST ATOMIC BOMB
|Those men standing a few miles from the blast site truly must have wondered what they had unleashed when they saw the awesome result of nuclear chain reaction rise up from the desert floor in front of them! The scientists who assembled that first Atomic Bomb in a ranch house a couple of miles to the south had just ushered in the Nuclear Era. The world would never be the same.
"Ground Zero," Trinity Site, is deceptive in its solitude and remoteness. Except on two days a year, the 1st weekend in April and the 1st weekend in October, when the site is opened to the public. You can actually stand on the exact point where the bomb was detonated.
If you came by this way without the big fence that surrounds the place, and the obelisk marking the site, if it was just desert, you'd never suspect an Atomic Bomb was exploded here. There is a slight indentation in the ground, the grass is stunted and brown if it grows at all, but that's about it.
We spent the night in Carrizozo, NM on Friday and had a less-than-inspiring meal at the restaurant on the SE side of the highway intersection there. The fish and chips were breaded in the same breading the chicken fried steak was and the veggies were watery and cold. I don't normally report on restaurants, but this was pretty egregious. Earlier in the day we had lunch at the Owl Bar & Cafe in San Antonio (just off I-25 south of Socorro, see directions in NOTES below) and the hamburgers were great but a little small for the reputation the Owl is supposed to have.
But we drove the 12 miles or so up to White Oaks and had a couple of drinks at the No Scum Allowed Saloon (see that story under STORIES & TRIPS) and enjoyed that.
We stayed at the Sands Motel on the south end of Carrizozo. Not a pretentious place by any description, but clean and comfortable and the only motel I know where they have Direct TV in the rooms and you can click through a dozen or so movie channels.
We drove the fifty or so miles over to the gate on the north end of White Sands Missile Range, getting there a little after 9. There were only a few cars ahead of us, but later in the day we saw at least a half mile backup there. Arriving early, therefore, is a good idea. It also puts you at the site ahead of the convoy that comes out of Alamogordo. Talk about a mess when over 100 cars hits the place.
There were still a LOT of people there. The military searches any bags you have before you get to the site itself, so don't try to slip in with a weapon or drugs. You will be arrested so fast your head'll swim.
The monument marking the site seems to be the main attraction, with folks jockeying madly to stand in front of it and have their picture taken. They have a replica of the "Fat Man" bomb casing used to carry the Atomic Bomb over Japan. There's a low building you can peer in and see the radioactive, glassy substance called Trinitite that was left after heat from the explosion melted the sand. Other than that you have to use your imagination to conjure up what that morning must have been like. Listen to the wind, filter out the human noise around you, see the vast emptiness of this high desert. Try to believe this is where the good or bad, however you look at it, of the nuclear age began just after sunrise July 16, 1945. The day there were two sunrises...
A lot of folks show up. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a couple thousand people wandering around while we were here. So, again, come early. Jump on the shuttle bus and visit the McDonald ranch house first thing. You'll stand in long lines after noon or so.
They assembled the core of the bomb in the ranch house, abandoned a few years before the government establish the missile range, and it was a sort of headquarters for the scientists and military.
The next time the site is open is the 1st weekend in October, 2003. You might want to print this article or it will still be on this site under STORIES & TRIPS if you go.
Visiting Trinity Site is about the easiest thing to do the Federal Government is involved in. No reservations are required and you can drive in by yourself.
Trinity is located on the northern end of the 3,200-square mile White Sands Missile Range, N.M. between the towns of Carrizozo and Socorro, New Mexico. There are two ways of entering the restricted missile range.
Visitors driving by themselves can enter through the Range`s Stallion Range Center which is five miles south of Highway 380. The turnoff is 12 miles east of San Antonio, N.M. and 53 miles west of Carrizozo, N.M. The Stallion gate will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
San Antonio is just off I-25 about 12 miles south of Socorro, NM.
Visitors arriving at the gate between those hours will receive handouts and will be allowed to drive unescorted the 17 miles to Trinity Site. The road is paved and marked.
The second way of entering the missile range is by travelling with a convoy sponsored by the Alamogordo, N.M. Chamber of Commerce. The convoy forms at the Otero County Fairgrounds in Alamogordo and leaves at 8 a.m. Visitors entering this way will travel as an escorted group to and from Trinity Site. The drive is 170 miles roundtrip and there are no service station facilities on the missile range. The convoy is scheduled to leave Trinity Site at 12:30 or 1 p.m., depending on its size, for the return to Alamogordo. The convoy may leave later if there is a large number of vehicles returning to Alamogordo.
Cameras are allowed at Trinity Site but their use is strictly prohibited anywhere else on White Sands Missile Range.
Trinity Site consists of ground zero where the atomic bomb was placed on a 100-foot steel tower and exploded on July 16, 1945 and the McDonald ranch house where the world`s first plutonium core for a bomb was assembled. What crater there was resulting from the explosion has been filled in and a small monument now marks the spot. The missile range provides historical photos and a Fat Man bomb casing for display at ground zero. There are no ceremonies or speakers.
For more information contact the missile range Public Affairs Office at (505) 678-1134/1700 or see their web pages about Trinity Site.
|RETURN TO HOME PAGE