The Atomic Age

960510-7-5-NTS-Plutonium-Valley-CROP

B-52 A-Bomb Crash Test

thmb-960510-7-5-NTS-Plutonium-Valley-CROP

Plutonium Valley is a six square mile valley in Area 11 on the Nevada Test Site, where in the early 1950’s, the AEC exploded 10,000 tons of TNT packed around a B-52 bomber and its nuclear device to simulate what could happen in a crash. The A-Bomb itself did not explode, but particles of plutonium were dispersed over a wide area which to this day remains accessible only to those wearing Rad suits and respirators as the environment will be contaminated for 400 generations. We could not enter, and after being greeted by the sign on the gate, my desire to get closer diminished. My Geiger counter finally had something abnormal to count.
For additional art, click on Collections buttons for dropdown menus

970203-4-4-Command-Post-NTS

Slightly Hot Command Post

thmb-970203-4-4-Command-Post-NTS

Occasionally the Nevada Test Site sells off surplus properties, which are most usually ‘command posts.’ I was told they are not radioactive, although my Geiger counter reacted by being placed near the skin of this ‘command post’. I went inside a few and while the Geiger counter beeped, I don’t think it was any more radioactive than say standing in front of the Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC.
For additional art, click on Collections buttons for dropdown menus

980420-4_F2-Bomb-rooms-WSMR

Plutonium on the Half Shell

thmb-980420-4_F2-Bomb-rooms-WSMR

This small suite of rooms in the MacDonald Ranch farmhouse sits deserted on the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). These rooms are where the ‘gadget’ was assembled after its arrival by car from Los Alamos. The tower holding the bomb was a short distance away, so the core was assembled and wired together in this desert farmhouse. Those assembling the gadget imagined the atomic bomb might set fire to the atmosphere.

For additional art, click on Collections buttons for dropdown menus

980413-2-2-NTS-tank-Motels-C1

Test Structures – aka, The Motels

thmb-980413-2-2-tank-Motels-C1

It sounds like it ought to be a rock band, but these were built to be destroyed in 1955. They have mostly weathered the storm, although at various times the Army used them for target practice despite being on the Historic Register of protected places. The tank was a test vehicle which became irradiated after a DU round pierced the hull and bounced around inside.
For additional art, click on Collections buttons for dropdown menus

980420-1F3-Fat-Man-&-kids-Atomic-Museum

Fat Man Hiroshima Bomb

thmb-980420-1F3-Fat-Man-kids-Atomic-Museum

A World War II bomb casing for Fat Man dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945, is shown at the Atomic Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. These casings were filled with concrete and dropped from B-29’s in tests at the White Sands Missile Range and other locations to see how they fell. Dropping two Atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced Japan to surrender and brought the War in Asia to a close.
For additional art, click on Collections buttons for drop-down menus

981112-4F10-Railroad-Bridg-NTS

Trestle, Area 5

thmb-981112-4F10-Railroad-Bridg-NTS

This trestle was one of a series built for showing the effects of an atomic weapons pressure wave. There were a half dozen trestles, but today only one stands in the desolate silence of Frenchman Flat. More than 50 years has elapsed since Priscilla, as it was part of the Plumb-bob series detonated in 1957.
Hundreds of atomic weapons tests took place in the desert less than a hundred miles from Las Vegas. More to the point, the wind was not always blowing away from Vegas.

< For additional art, click on Collections buttons for drop-down menus

97-Burnt-Wall-ww2mem

Melted Concrete, Area 5

thmb-97-Burnt-Wall-ww2mem

This window frame is part of the structure known as the ‘Motels’. They stretch across Frenchman Flat as a series of concrete structures erected to show how varying materials withstood shock waves and high temperatures. This piece of concrete is melted and shows pitting probably caused by a combination of stress and heat.
For additional art, click on Collections buttons for drop-down menus

960510-01-3-NTS-Entrance-Rd-wide

Mercury Hiway

thmb-960510-01-3-NTS-Entrance-Rd-wide

This is the view the public sees when passing the Nevada Test Site entrance off US 95 between Las Vegas and Reno. On the left are large pens built to hold protesters. Whenever the going gets tough, the administration in DC changes the Test Site’s name.
It began as the Nevada Proving Grounds, and then after a few A-bombs lit up the sky, it became the Nevada Test Site (NTS) and remained so for decades. Las Wegians could get up early, sit on their balconies, take a hit of reefer, and get a spectacular light show from less than 100 miles distant and if they weren’t lucky, the resulting shock wave could break their windows and/or cause them to be irradiated by fallout. It was recently decided it should be known as the Nevada Nuclear Security Site, although its role is the same as it used to be: testing atomic weapons, albeit now underground. In the interim, it was discovered that the NTS owned Area 51, not the CIA. Oops!
For additional art, click on Collections buttons for drop-down menus

020410-1-3n-NM-WSMR-LC33-Gantry-V2

LC33 Launchpad

thmb-020410-1-3-LC33-V2--+-B-29

At the close of World War 2, America had no rocket program and so imported the Nazi regime’s rockets and its scientists to build a program in the US. This model of V-2 is named Hermes. Launch Complex 33 is where early rockets were launched.
For additional art, click on Collections buttons for drop-down menus
970203-15-5-Pig-pens-+-lying-glass-tests--FF-C1

Sliced Pork

thmb-970203-15-5-Pig-pens-+-lying-glass-tests--FF-C1

The larger steel frames were used to hold window frames containing glass and the smaller frames were used to hold pigs wearing American military uniforms during atomic weapons tests. They were testing resistance to blast waves to judge damage. I thought any idiot would know that the pigs would die horrible deaths.
Not to make light of the situation, but as nobody offered to show me photographs of the results, I guess they got sliced pork.
For additional art, click on Collections buttons for drop-down menus

980413-3-2-NTS-Test-Structure-FF

Frenchman Flat

thmb-980413-3-2-PHOTO-BUNKERS-FF

These bunkers were built to house instruments and cameras during atomic weapons tests. Like the tests involving the Huron-King vacuum chamber, the scientists were primarily interested in the first few milliseconds rather than the destruction.
That they remain on Frenchman Flat is a testament to their construction and placement in the desert. There was an ocean here, but it was eons ago.

For additional art, click on Collections buttons for drop-down menus

980413-29-1-NTS-Sedan+Area-51

Sedan Crater

thmb-980413-29-1-Sedan+Area-51

Sedan Crater was the result of a thermonuclear test on July 6, 1962. The crater is on the National Register of Historic Places and is in Area 10 on Yucca Flat of the NTS. Sedan subjected more Americans to radiation than any other nuclear test; approximately 13 million people were directly affected, as the contents of the crater drifted on the wind and dropped fallout in 13 states as far away as North Carolina.
Behind the crater on the other side of the mountains is Area 51, the secret test facility run by the CIA.
For additional art, click on Collections buttons for drop-down menus

980413-25-1-NTS-Target-practice

Targets

thmb-980413-25-1-NTS-Target-practice

When one is in the Army and looking for targets, I guess one building is as good as another. The Army, for reasons unknown, chose to use these historic structures for target practice sometime during the 1960’s and 70’s. This is why there is the National Trust for Historic Preservation: it attempts to keep destructive fools at bay.
For additional art, click on Collections buttons for drop-down menus

980427-18-1WSMR-Trinity-Mon-+-B-29-WW2mem

Trinity

thmb-980427-18-1Trinity-Mon-+-B-29

The first atomic bomb was exploded here on July 16, 1945, in the presence of hundreds of scientists at distances of 10,000+ yards. My father’s premature death from radiation poisoning is what fuels my photography of atomic weapons test sites.

In visiting the site, it looks as though a giant boxing glove punched the ground to create a bowl. The melted legs for part of the original tower are behind the monument, and a short distance away is a piece of preserved ‘Trinitite’ glass made when the heat of the bomb melted the sand. My Dad the geology professor had a small piece of it on his desk.

For additional art, click on Collections buttons for drop-down menus

960510-16-4-To-Die-For-NTS

To Die For

thmb-960510-16-4-To-Die-For-NTS

When the AEC was forced to take atomic testing underground due to the Limited Test Ban of 1963, they drilled mile-deep holes into which they lowered tests and instrumentation. This hole was 88″ (223cm) in diameter and 5000+ feet deep. This is not a hole into which one would like to fall. So the crews built ‘shaft collars’ and some got festooned with humorous signs. This one sits in Area 25.
For additional art, click on Collections buttons for drop-down menus

97-Apple-2-Window-NTS

Apple-II House

thmb-97-Apple-2-Window-NTS

This Apple-II house was constructed 7,500 feet from ground zero, and while our guide claimed the house is relatively undamaged, I’m glad I was not in attendance. The bomb blast burned off the shingles, tar paper, and the roof.
The house was furnished with a family of mannequins at a dinner party while outside the AEC had set up an atomic bomb. For this test, a car was outside this residence. Reputedly the Army borrowed cars from Las Vegas dealers and wanted to return them after the test. But they were destroyed.
After the test, the ‘family’ was strewn about or missing. My favorite photo is of the mannequin with a 2-foot shard of glass sticking out of his back.
For additional art, click on Collections buttons for drop-down menus