Each year, once in the fall and once in the spring, the Trinity Site where the first atomic bomb was tested is open to the public. This year it will be Saturday, Oct. 1, from 8AM to 2 PM. We prefer the autumn because the spring has many windy days. These photos were taken in the spring. The site is located just south of Socorro. Many people associate the Trinity Site with Alamogordo because that is where the entrance to White Sands Missile Base is, but the location is much closer to Socorro. We are always impressed by how many visitors from Japan have planned their vacation to coincide with the public opening of the site.
The story of the building of the bomb and its detonation is quite interesting. It begins with part of the Manhattan Project’s work being that of scientists and military personnel led by J. Robert Oppenheimer, working in secret in the isolated mountain town of Los Alamos. When the time came to test the bomb in July of 1945, the scientists loaded the ingredients, including the plutonium, in private cars and headed south to the Trinity Site, some of the way being on dirt roads. Can you imagine this convoy?
At a recently-vacated ranch home, the bomb was assembled and then placed on a 100-foot-high tower to drop for a test, simulating a drop from an airplane. The scientists did not know what to expect. They hid behind wooden barriers, but how far away should they be? Would the explosion cause a man-made volcano and open up the crust of the earth? Would it catch the atmosphere on fire? (We can’t even imagine what that would be like, but it does not sound good at all). The bomb was dropped from the tower at 5:30 AM, causing a mushroom cloud that was seven miles high and seen and felt 100 miles away. It was near sunrise, and some people in the area, uninformed of the top-secret test, looking for the sunrise in the east, were confounded to see it rise in the west. Because of this, the day is sometimes referred to as “the day the sun rose twice.”
Three weeks later, a similar bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, and a short while later another on Nagasaki, ending the second world war.
Oppenheimer, aware of the atomic age that the bomb had begun, had misgivings. He quoted a Hindu scripture: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”