Tuesday, January 26, 2021

DAWN ABOVE ZERO (III Part)

The night was dark, covered with black clouds and no stars in sight. Perhaps, a ray of light would cleave the darkness and for a moment illuminate the plain and semi-desertic landscape. We were moving along Highway 85 in the United States, passing between Albuquerque and El Paso, leaving behind, asleep, the old Hispanic cities with their desert streets; cities with musical names, such as Las Lunas, Belén, Bernardo, Alamillo, Socorro, San Antonio. In the latter we twisted until I got up and crossed the bridge over the Rio Grande. From there we traveled 17 kilometers east on Highway 380, and then turned south taking a special road, full of mud, with a length of 39 kilometers to the base of Trinity.

We arrived at the end of our trip when we had covered a little more than 8 kilometers of the famous road. There we found the first signs of life, since, about three hours before, we left Albuquerque. We saw a row of men covered with helmets. A little further, a detachment of the military police examined our special passes. We get off the buses and look around. The night was still dark as a wolf’s mouth, and only occasionally a sudden glow towards the East silhouetted for a brief moment the Dark Sierra in front of us. We were in the middle of the desert of New Mexico, many kilometers from any known place, with few signs of life around us and barely a few flickers of light in the distant horizon. This would be our waiting place until zero hour.

At some distance, in the southeast, the beam of a reflector searches the clouds. Thanks to it we were able to get a first sense of orientation. Zero, the location chosen to test the bomb, was a little to the left of the reflector, at a distance of 32 kilometers. With the darkness and waiting in the rigor of the desert, the tension became almost unbearable.

We formed a circle to listen to instructions about what to do at the time of the test. These instructions, which were read aloud to us in the light of a lantern, were as follows:


At a brief siren signal five minutes before zero hour, all staff whose duties do not specifically require otherwise shall be provided with a suitable place to lie in. At a prolonged siren signal, two minutes before zero hour, all personnel, other than those whose duties do not specifically require otherwise, shall immediately lie face down, face down and head direction opposite Zero.. Not looking directly at the explosion, they kept saying the instructions, but turning face up when it has occurred and looking at the clouds. Stay on the ground until the blast wave has passed (two minutes later)


When you hear two siren sounds, signal that you have passed all the danger of the explosion, the staff was ready to get up as soon as possible 

The dangers of the blast wave will be lessened by staying on the ground, so that the blasting of stones, crystals and other objects will find no one in their path. Open the doors of all vehicles.

The danger of light damaging the sight will be reduced by closing the eyes and hiding the face between the crossed arms. If you contemplate the first splendor of the burst, a momentary blindness can impede the vision of the rest of the show.

The danger of ultraviolet rays damaging the skin is best avoided by wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts.


David Dow, assistant to the technical director of the Atomic Bomb Experimentation Center, provided each of us with a piece of colored glass like the one used by autologous welders to protect our eyesight. Dr. Edward Teller of George Washington University warned us against burns. Someone pulled lotion on these and passed it around between us. It was an impressive sight to see a whole series of our most conspicuous men of science covering their faces and hands with a lotion against burns, in the closed darkness of the night and 20 miles from the expected outburst. Those men were the ones who knew better than anyone the power of Atomic Energy once unleashed. This allowed one to partake somewhat of the trust they had in their work.

No comments:

Post a Comment