Trinity Site

Trinity Site

The famous photo of the Trinity test, taken by Jack Aeby.

J. Robert Oppenheimer gave the code name "Trinity" to a remote patch of the Jornada del Muerto Desert as a tribute to a line from a poem by John Donne. Soon after, teams of scientists and soldiers descended on the area, setting up a base camp and installing equipment in preparation for the world's first nuclear test. After months of dueling with the limits of technology and the region's harsh weather conditions, the scheduled test date arrived. On July 16, 1945, the "Gadget" nuclear device was detonated from a steel tower, exploding with a force that would forever alter human history.  

The mushroom cloud rose almost eight miles high and left a crater that was ten feet deep and over 1,000 feet wide. Pieces of a green, glass-like and mildly radioactive mineral were scattered in and around the crater. Dubbed “Trinitite,” investigators theorized that desert sand was lifted by the blast, liquefied by the tremendous temperature and rained down on the earth.

Groves and Oppenheimer with his signature porkpie hat returned to the Trinity site about six weeks after the explosion on Sunday, September 9, 1945. The twisted metal rods were all that remained of the 100-foot tower. The press was invited for the first time in part to dispel fears of lingering high radiation levels.

For more on the Trinity test, click here. For rare photographs taken by Marvin Davis, an MP stationed at the Trinity site, click here. For videos of the Trinity test, visit our YouTube channel.

 

After the War

In 1952, the site of the first atomic explosion was bulldozed and most of the trinitite removed. The site received a National Historic Landmark designation in 1965 and was listed on the Register of Historic Places less than a year later.

Ground Zero at Trinity is marked by a 12-foot obelisk made of lava rock. Its inscription reads: “Trinity Site: Where the World’s First Nuclear Device Was Exploded on July 16, 1945.”

An 80-ton steel vessel, Jumbo, was built to contain the precious 13 pounds of plutonium in the event that the bomb failed to detonate. Jumbo illustrates Groves’ cautious approach to the project, always having a backup plan in case of failure.

Because Jumbo was never needed, General Groves was concerned that Congress would criticize him for spending $12 milllion on a white elephant. He ordered that the vessel be destroyed. However, eight 500-pound bombs succeeded only in blowing off its ends.

The Trinity site is open to the public on the first Saturdays in October and April. Eventually, the site may be affiliated with the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and open more often.

Gallery

  • General Leslie R. Groves and J. Robert Oppenheimer after the successful Trinity test

    General Leslie R. Groves and J. Robert Oppenheimer after the successful Trinity test

  • Oppenheimer with the "Gadget" before the Trinity test

    Oppenheimer with the "Gadget" before the Trinity test

  • Norris Bradbury with the "Gadget" on top of the Trinity test tower

    Norris Bradbury with the "Gadget" on top of the Trinity test tower

  • Norris Bradbury with the "Gadget" on top of the Trinity test tower

    Norris Bradbury with the "Gadget" on top of the Trinity test tower

  • Moving Jumbo to Trinity site

    Moving Jumbo to Trinity site

  • General Groves, Oppenheimer and other scientists inspecting Ground Zero

    General Groves, Oppenheimer and other scientists inspecting Ground Zero

  • William Laurence & General Groves

    William Laurence & General Groves

  • Trinitite. Photo courtesy of LANL.

    Trinitite. Photo courtesy of LANL.

  • Gadget at Trinity

    Gadget at Trinity

  • The explosion at Trinity

    The explosion at Trinity

  • The Trinity site after the explosion with the crater

    The Trinity site after the explosion with the crater

  • Bringing the Gadget to the top of the Trinity site

    Bringing the Gadget to the top of the Trinity site

  • AHF President Cindy Kelly with her husband Bill Kelly at the Trinity site monumentt

    AHF President Cindy Kelly with her husband Bill Kelly at the Trinity  site monumentt

  • The partially destroyed Jumbo at Trinity site today

    The partially destroyed Jumbo at Trinity site today

  • Trinity test shot .1 seconds

    Trinity test shot .1 seconds

  • Trinity test shot .016 seconds

    Trinity test shot .016 seconds

  • Trinity test shot .025 seconds

    Trinity test shot .025 seconds

  • Trinity test shot .053 seconds

    Trinity test shot .053 seconds

  • Trinity test shot 20 seconds

    Trinity test shot 20 seconds

  • Jumbo on train

    Jumbo on train

  • Moving Jumbo

    Moving Jumbo

  • Jumbo on specially constructed flat-car

    Jumbo on specially constructed flat-car

  • Jumbo on freight car

    Jumbo on freight car

  • Jumbo suspended in tower

    Jumbo suspended in tower

  • Jumbo and collapsed tower after the Trinity test

    Jumbo and collapsed tower after the Trinity test

  • Base Camp

    Base Camp

  • Base Camp

    Base Camp

  • McDonald Ranch headquarters

    McDonald Ranch headquarters

  • McDonald Ranch

    McDonald Ranch

  • Mess Hall

    Mess Hall

  • Optics Group headquarters

    Optics Group headquarters

  • Gadget test tower

    Gadget test tower

  • Gadget being hoisted

    Gadget being hoisted

  • Moving the plutonium core

    Moving the plutonium core

  • Slug ready for Gadget

    Slug ready for Gadget

  • Assembly of the Gadget

    Assembly of the Gadget

  • Lead lined tanks at Pope, NM

    Lead lined tanks at Pope, NM

  • Photographic shelter at Point P (10,000 W)

    Photographic shelter at Point P (10,000 W)

  • Camera at Campana Hill station

    Camera at Campana Hill station

  • Site B (Timing Control Center)

    Site B (Timing Control Center)

  • 1000 north after the test

    1000 north after the test

  • Aerial of the Trinity site crater

    Aerial of the Trinity site crater

  • Completed assembly of the TNT tower

    Completed assembly of the TNT tower

  • First layer of high explosives on the TNT test tower

    First layer of high explosives on the TNT test tower

  • Stacking high explosives on the TNT test tower

    Stacking high explosives on the TNT test tower

  • Stacking high explosives on the TNT test tower

    Stacking high explosives on the TNT test tower

  • Herb Lehr with the Active Material

    Herb Lehr with the Active Material

  • View from the Top of the Tower

    View from the Top of the Tower

  • 10,000 N Shelter

    10,000 N Shelter

  • Green Glass - Trinitite - at 200 W after the Test

    Green Glass - Trinitite - at 200 W after the Test

Related Video: 

Trinity Test Color Footage

Color video of the Trinity test explosion.