The Trinity Test

After various test sites were considered, a location about 100 miles south of Los Alamos in the aptly-named Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death) in the Alamogordo Desert of southern New Mexico, was selected to test the implosion device. Oppenheimer named the site "Trinity" after a poem that he had been reading. The construction of the Trinity site was rapidly accomplished in the winter and spring of 1945. An old ranch house served as base camp.

On July 13, final assembly of the "Gadget" (named by the physicists at Los Alamos) began at the Trinity site. The following day, the assembled Gadget was carefully hoisted to the top of the 100 foot tower on which it would be detonated. The test was scheduled for 4 a.m., Monday, July 16.

As the test approached, the weather worsened, as predicted. A thunderstorm broke over the site late on July 15, and the test was postponed to 5:30 a.m.

On July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., a light "brighter than a thousand suns," filled the valley. As the now familiar mushroom cloud rose in to the sky, Oppenheimer quoted from Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-gita, "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." The world had entered the nuclear age.

Immediately after the test a Sherman M-4 tank, equipped with its own air supply, and lined with two inches of lead went out to explore the site. The lead lining added 12 tons to the tank's weight, but was necessary to protect its occupants from the radiation levels at ground zero. The tank's passengers found that the 100 foot steel tower had virtually disappeared, with only the metal and concrete stumps of its four legs remaining. Surrounding ground zero was a crater almost 2,400 feet across and about ten feet deep in places. Desert sand around the tower had been fused by the intense heat of the blast into a jade colored glass, now known as Trinitite.