The only surviving colour photo of the Trinity test, 16 July 1945. Image Source: Jack W. Aeby/Life/Wiki.
Oppenheimer's quotation of the Bhagavad Gita regarding the first nuclear test is now legendary: "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." Other observers remarked that there were two suns in the sky. These are the images associated with the Trinity test, which took place 66 years ago today. Wiki:
This image of two suns in the sky made the test a symbolic herald of dualism in our times, a splitting of Millennial consciousness. Considering a nuclear explosion as a terrible 'shadow sun' is a powerful metaphor for the virtual dimensions that now contrast with our reality. Looking back on Trinity is an eerie reminder of our growing metaphysical quandary, the associated erosion of values, and their replacement with new norms and standards.In the official report on the test, General Farrell wrote, "The lighting effects beggared description. The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun. It was golden, purple, violet, gray, and blue. It lighted every peak, crevasse and ridge of the nearby mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined..."
News reports quoted a forest ranger 150 miles (240 km) west of the site as saying he saw "a flash of fire followed by an explosion and black smoke." A New Mexican 150 miles (240 km) north said, "The explosion lighted up the sky like the sun." Other reports remarked that windows were rattled and the sound of the explosion could be heard up to 200 miles (320 km) away.
John R. Lugo was flying a U.S. Navy transport at 10,000 feet (3,000 m), 30 miles (48 km) east of Albuquerque, en route to the west coast. "My first impression was ... the sun was coming up in the south. What a ball of fire! It was so bright it lit up the cockpit of the plane." Lugo radioed Albuquerque. He got no explanation for the blast but was told, "Don't fly south."
The beginning of the nuclear age. Trinity testing zone historical marker. Image Source: Wiki.
Time has an article on renewed fears of radioactive fallout in North America in light of the Fukushima meltdowns. The author ponders the long-term ill effects of low dose radiation from nuclear weapons tests:
In a post entitled, "Pawning the Chernobyl Necklace," Valerie Brown describes her experience of having her thyroid gland removed as a result of being exposed to radioactive fallout from weapons tests:During the early 1950s, parents in the little town of St. George in southwestern Utah often woke their children up at 6 a.m., hustled them to the top of Black Hill on the western edge of the community, and let them watch the mushroom clouds rising into the dawn sky over the atomic-bomb testing site in neighboring Nevada. When a pinkish-red cloud drifted over St. George hours later, the parents were not frightened; after all, the Atomic Energy Commission had assured them that "there is no danger" from radioactive fallout. Some parents even held Geiger counters on their children and exclaimed in wonder as the needles jumped.
A generation later, the awe has turned into fear. Studies now show that an unusually high number of those Utah youngsters exposed to nuclear fallout eventually died of leukemia. Similarly, there are indications of a high cancer rate among military personnel who observed the tests at close range.
Let me tell you what it feels like.Brown goes on to describe her years of research into the radioactive pollution of Nevada, Idaho and Washington State during the Cold War. The map below shows the fallout from Nevada testing. It does not include the pollution at Hanford and other incidents.
On a spring day in 1975, the first words I heard as I rose through the fog of anesthetic were “it was malignant.” I was twenty-four years old. A couple of months earlier during a routine physical my doctor had found a mass on my thyroid gland. X-rays and ultrasound had failed to clarify whether the mass was a fluid-filled cyst or a solid tumor. The only choice was surgery. The tissue analysis during the operation confirmed a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. The surgeon removed one lobe and the isthmus of the barbell-shaped gland at the base of my neck. I was informed that I’d take thyroid hormone for the rest of my life because if my own remnant gland were to start functioning again, it might grow itself another cancer. And so I have taken the little pill every morning for thirty-six years. It took a long time for the screaming red scar around my neck – the kind that was later dubbed the “Chernobyl necklace” – to fade.
I was very lucky. I can say that now, after so many years without a recurrence. But it has been thirty-six years of ever-present fear and not a few physical problems, along with an increasing sense of outrage, as the likely cause of my trauma has gradually been revealed to me.
At the time, “Why me?” was uppermost on my mind.
“We don’t know what causes it,” my doctor told me in a casual tone. “But a lot of young women get thyroid cancer.”
Not a political map: nuclear fallout in the United States due to Nevada-based weapons testing. Image Source via Godlike Productions forums.
According to the person who shared this map, this is a map of cumulative radioactive iodine fallout from Nevada nuclear testing from 1951 to 1962. I don't have the original source for this image.
The Baker explosion - nuclear testing on Bikini Atoll during the US Government's Operation Crossroads (25 July 1946). Image Source: Wiki.
The US also tested weapons in Micronesia in the Pacific. There is a history of how the people of Bikini Atoll were affected here.
There is a list of known nuclear weapons tests conducted worldwide here. There are questions of the impact on the environment of nuclear testing beyond radioactivity. Recalling France's 1996 nuclear test, Operation Xouthos in French Polynesia at Fangataufa (a favourite French site), I wondered if tests conducted by different countries in the Pacific could have affected earthquake faults along the Ring of Fire. I have no idea if that is the case, and I'm sure the answer is 'no,' but a scan of forums discussing Fukushima shows I'm not alone in wondering about it.
There is some correlation between stress on earthquake fault lines and seismic activity caused by underground nuclear tests. Wiki: "Although there were early concerns about earthquakes arising as a result of underground tests, there is no evidence that this has occurred. However, fault movements and ground fractures have been reported, and explosions often precede a series of aftershocks, thought to be a result of cavity collapse and chimney formation. In a few cases, seismic energy released by fault movements has exceeded that of the explosion itself." The USGS has a page on the correlation between nuclear explosions and seismology here, which addresses questions about any connections between Nevada nuclear tests and California earthquakes - or the 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests and Afghan earthquake of 30 May 1998.
See all my posts on nuclear topics.
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