Trinity Site

White Sands Missile Range

 

Mark this date on your calendar. April 7, 2018.  This is your next chance to visit the site of the first atomic bomb explosion. The explosion took place at Trinity Site which is on what is now White Sands Missile Range. Trinity is a national historic landmark which is open to the public only twice a year.

trinity_overview

I won’t go into all the details of how to visit the site; that information is presented on the WSMR web site in great detail. It’s also updated a lot more regularly than this site. I’ve actually made two visits to Trinity Site, in October 1996 and again in October, 2004.

trinity1

The monument marking ‘ground zero’ of the blast is the focal point for visitors. It gets quite crowded, as you can see in the photo above. But the picture on the left, taken on my 1996 visit, show it almost alone. It all depends on the interest in the site at the time. Crowds in 1996 were sparse, but almost overflowing in 2004.

Besides the monument there’s a display of trinitite, the glass like material created when the sand of the desert, along with debris from the blast, was melted by the heat of the blast. The display, shown below, is under cover, to protect it from the weather and shifty tourists who might want a sample. Taking a sample is not a good idea. This stuff is radioactive. Also under the cover is the last remaining portion of the site that was not scraped clean to remove any radioactive material.

Trinitite Shelter

McDonald HouseAs part of your visit you can take a short bus ride, free, to the McDonald House. This is the location where the final assembly of the bomb took place. It’s also where some of the scientists stayed in the weeks leading up to the test. You can see some of the damage due to the force of the blast, even though it was five miles away.

Should you visit Trinity site? Yes! By all means. It’s the site of both a scientific milestone and a turning point in the history of the world. Both times I visited I entered the WSMR through the northern Stallion Gate and drove to Trinity Site. There’s a lot of interesting ‘stuff’ along the route, especially as you get close to the site. I’d suggest bringing your own soft drinks or bottled water, but there are plenty of food vendors, plus the usual souvenier shops set up near the parking area. Have a good time, don’t worry about radiation, (it’s minimal) and marvel at the desolate, primative conditions under which this history making event took place.