Friday, October 1, 2010

Open House at Trinity

By John Larson

SOCORRO - One of the most significant events in Socorro County and world history happened about 27 miles southeast San Antonio in 1945.
The nuclear age was born on former ranch land 22 miles south of Highway 380 on July 16, 1945.
Next Saturday, Oct. 2, the Trinity Site can be visited first hand during the semiannual open house from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The open house includes ground zero and the Dave MacDonald ranch house, two miles to the south, where physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer oversaw the assembly of what was referred to as the “gadget,” or the “device.”
The 20 kiloton explosion was equivalent to 8 million sticks of dynamite.
Since the yield was unknown prior to that first shot, Los Alamos scientists created a pool to predict how big the explosion would be. Nobelist Enrico Fermi went so far as to be willing to bet anyone that the test would wipe out all life on Earth, with special odds on the mere destruction of the entire state of New Mexico.
Los Alamos lawyer Ralph Smith, observing from the present day Stallion Range Center area wrote that a “ball of fire seemed to rise in something of toadstool effect. Later the column proceeded as a cylinder of white smoke.
“My estimate of the width of the ball of fire was guessed to be one to two miles at that time,” Smith wrote. “Someone said keep your mouth open and just then, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes after the light flash, a sharp loud crack swept over us -- it reverberated through the mountain like thunder. Several small flashes took place some distance from and after the big flash, apparently part of a measuring system. Commander (Norris) Bradbury said that the cloud was up over 20,000 feet and still rising.”
After 65 years there is practically no trace of that blast to be seen, except for a crumbled concrete footing of the 100 foot tower - a surplus Forest Service fire watch tower – from which the bomb was detonated. The lone stone and mortar memorial is just about all there is to see.
The Trinity Site is open to the public only two days each year; on the first Saturday of April and October.
The Stallion Gate turnoff on Highway 380 is 12 miles west of San Antonio, from there it’s another 22 miles to the Trinity Site.

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