Tag Archives: USA

Postcard From The USA – The Nevada Nuclear Test Site

nevada-test-site

After we left Zion National Park there was about one hundred and sixty miles to drive to Las Vegas and most of this was across the Mojave desert, which is an area of barren inhospitable land that only receives about ten inches of rain in an average year and is situated in the south of Nevada and spreads into Utah and Arizona.  Most of the land in the State is of no use at all for agriculture, the Federal Government owns 86% and much of it is used for military purposes.

Although we didn’t know this at the time the road that we were travelling along was only sixty miles or so southwest of The Nevada Test Site that is a United States Department of Energy reservation which was established in January 1951 for the testing of nuclear weapons and is an area of approximately two thousand square miles of desert and mountainous terrain.  The location is infamous for receiving the highest amount of concentrated nuclear detonated weapons in the U.S.

Nuclear testing was big business in the 1950s as the United States and the Soviet Union prepared with stubborn enthusiasm for wiping each other permanently off the face of the earth.  The fact that a major explosion even on the opposite side of the World might have serious consequences for both protagonists and pretty much everyone else in between just didn’t seem to occur to them.

1954 Nuclear Testing 1

Sadly, it seems to me, military people anywhere don’t mind spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars/pounds/roubles/euros anywhere that suits their inherent belligerent redneck tendencies. Between 1940 and 1996 it is estimated that the United States spent a massive $5.8 trillion on its nuclear arms programme or about $21,000 per US citizen.

Figures as massive as this are impossible to imagine, it is as meaningless as telling me that the Earth is ninety-five million miles from the sun when I only drive my car about ten thousand miles each year. It is as meaningless as telling me that UK national debt is rising by two billion pounds each week when I only get £130 a week state pension.  It is as meaningless as telling me that the Earth is five billion years old when I struggle to believe that I have reached sixty-six!

To try and help someone once calculated if you attempted to count $5.8 trillion at the rate of $1 a second, it would take almost twelve days (non-stop) to reach $1 million, nearly thirty-two years to reach $1 billion, thirty-two thousand years to reach $1 trillion and about one hundred and eighty-five thousand years to reach $5.8 trillion.

nuclear-test-site-explosion

What also seems foolish to me is that both the US and the Soviet Union carried out nuclear testing within the boundaries of their own countries which is rather like setting the chip pan on fire in the kitchen of blocking up your own WC – rather foolish.

Research suggests that the hidden cost of developing nuclear weapons were far larger than previous estimates with radioactive fallout responsible for over half a million American deaths from 1951 to 1973. To put that into perspective that is more victims than those from American bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945!

Compare this with the careful strategy of Great Britain which was much more sensible in this regard and who carried out its own modest nuclear bomb experiments on the other side of the World, in Australia.

The Nevada Test Site was the primary testing location of American nuclear devices during the Cold War and began here with a one kiloton bomb on January 27, 1951.  From then until 1992, there were nine hundred and twenty eight announced nuclear tests at the test site, which is far more than at any other test site in the World, and seismic data has indicated there may have been many unannounced underground tests as well.

Nevada Test Site 001

During the 1950s the familiar deadly mushroom cloud from these tests could be seen for almost a hundred miles in either direction, including the city of Las Vegas, where the tests instantly became tourist attractions as Americans headed for the City to witness the spectacle that could be seen from the downtown hotels.  It is an amazing fact but even more recklessly many others would thoughtlessly drive the family to the boundary of the test site for a day out and a picnic to view the free entertainment.  In doing so they unsuspectingly acquired an instant suntan and their own personal lethal dose of radioactive iodine 131, which the American National Cancer Institute, in a report released in 1997, estimated was responsible for thousands of cases of thyroid cancer in subsequent years.

nuclear-vacation-nevada-test-site

At this time the U,S. Government spent a lot of money on public information advice on how to prepare for a Soviet Nuclear attack, it seems the money would have been better spent on protecting themselves from themselves.

nuclear-attack-survival-guide

No one can be absolutely sure that the test site and the surrounding areas are even now completely safe but it doesn’t stop millions of tourists visiting Las Vegas every year and anyway we didn’t know about the close proximity of the site at the time so we continued into the city blindly oblivious to the matter.

Early Days, 1954 Part Four – More about the Nuclear Arms Race and TV News

nevada-test-site

“As you can see Mr Bond, I am about to inaugurate a little war. In a matter of hours after America and Russia have annihilated each other, we shall see a new power dominating the world.” – Ernst Stavros Blofeld (You Only Live Twice)

Last time I took a look at nuclear weapons testing and finished with the bikini swimsuit.  Swimsuit stuff is great but back now to the serious stuff of destroying the World!

Nuclear testing was big business in the 1950s as the United States and the Soviet Union prepared with stubborn enthusiasm for wiping each other permanently off the face of the earth.  The fact that a major explosion even on the opposite side of the World might have serious consequences for both protagonists and pretty much everyone else in between just didn’t seem to occur to them.

What were these people thinking?  The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused the deaths of almost 250,000 people which is killing on a scale that Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot could only have dreamed about.

nuclear-attack-survival-guide

What also seems foolish to me is that both the US and the Soviet Union carried out nuclear testing within the boundaries of their own countries which is rather like setting the chip pan on fire in the kitchen of blocking up your own WC – dumb!

Compare this with the strategy of Great Britain which was much more sensible in this regard and who carried out its own modest nuclear bomb experiments on the other side of the World, in Australia, and Australians continue to complain about this alongside the introduction of the fox and the rabbit.

Years after all this nuclear testing stuff, in 1996, I visited the United States and although I didn’t know this at the time travelled along a road that was only sixty miles or so southwest of the Nevada Test Site.  This was a United States Department of Energy reservation which was established in January 1951 for the sole purpose of testing of nuclear weapons and analysing just how much damage that they could do.

Forget Bikini Atoll, this location is infamous for receiving the highest amount of concentrated nuclear detonated weapons in all of North America.

I’ll say that again.  Forget Bikini Atoll, this location is infamous for receiving the highest amount of concentrated nuclear detonated weapons in all of North America.  Not satisfied with dropping nuclear bombs on other countries they detonated them within their own – dumb!

The Nevada Test Site was the primary testing location of American nuclear devices during the Cold War and began here with a one kiloton bomb in January 1951.  From then until 1992, there were nine hundred and twenty eight announced nuclear tests at the site, which is far more than at any other test site in the World and seismic data has indicated there may have been many unannounced and more secretive underground tests as well.

During the 1950s the familiar deadly mushroom cloud from these experiments could be seen for almost a hundred miles in all directions, including the city of Las Vegas, where they instantly became tourist attractions as Americans headed for the City to witness the spectacle that could be seen from the downtown hotels.  Even more recklessly many others would thoughtlessly drive the family to the boundary of the test site for a day out and a picnic to view the free entertainment.  In doing so they unsuspectingly acquired an instant suntan and their own personal lethal dose of radioactive iodine 131, which the American National Cancer Institute, in a report released in 1997, estimated was responsible for thousands of subsequent cases of thyroid cancer.

Continuing the nuclear theme, the world’s first atomic power station was opened near Moscow in Russia and knowing now how careless the Russians were with anything nuclear this was probably something that the World needed to seriously worry about.

Fast forward to the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Ukraine in 1986 when a reactor accident at a nuclear power plant resulted in the worst nuclear power plant accident in history.  They incident was the only one to ever to record level seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale which might not sound too bad but on a scale of zero to seven, believe me, that’s pretty serious!

The accident resulted in a severe nuclear meltdown and a plume of highly radioactive fallout released into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area to the extent that (except for a handful of foolish people and some wild animals) it remains virtually uninhabitable today and almost certainly for many more years to come as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mind you, we British could also arrange a nasty little nuclear disaster of our own and on 10th October 1957 the graphite core of a nuclear reactor at Windscale in Cumberland caught fire, releasing substantial amounts of radioactive contamination into the surrounding area. For twenty years, the event, known as the Windscale fire, was considered the world’s worst reactor accident until Three Mile Island in 1979, before both incidents were dwarfed by the Chernobyl incident.

Here are the results of the Cold War: The West 3 (Bikini Atoll, Three Mile Island, Windscale) – USSR 1 (Chernobyl)  – four own goals by the way!

I leave 1954 with some thoughts about news coverage, which is what has stimulated these posts in the first place.  It is significant that the very first television news first bulletin in the UK was shown in 1954 on BBC TV, which is obvious of course because there was no ITV until 1955, and presented by Richard Baker, who was also by coincidence born on the same day as me, 15th June but a few years earlier in 1925.

He was required to give off screen narration while still pictures were put in front of the camera, this was because, and I really find this hard to believe, television producers were concerned that a newsreader with facial expressions would distract the viewer from the story.

On screen newsreaders were only introduced a year later, in 1955, and Kenneth Kendall was the first to appear on screen.  Kenneth Kendall , it has to be said, was unlikely to distract viewers from the important stories of the day but on the other hand even today some viewers in the UK find it difficult to concentrate on the weather forecast when the lovely Carol Kirkwood is presenting…

Carol-Kirkwood

It’s Nice to Feel Useful (12)

One of the things that I like to do is to take a look at the search questions that seem to bring web-surfers by the site and take a look at some of the more bizarre and unusual.

Before Google got nervous about web search findings and tightened up on sharing search results this was a lot more fun and there were a lot more to choose from, now they are few and far between but just this week I  spotted one that amused me…

“What does a postcard of the Grand Canyon look like”

I am certain that I have put some dumb questions into Google myself but surely none as daft as this!

Anyway, I visited the Grand Canyon in 1995 and as always I am keen to help so here we go…

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Age of Innocence, 1954 – More about Nuclear Testing

Nevada Test Site

Last time I took a look at nuclear weapons testing and finished with the bikini swimsuit.  Anyway, back now to the serious stuff of destroying the World!

Nuclear testing was big business in the 1950s as the United States and the Soviet Union prepared with stubborn enthusiasm for wiping each other permanently off the face of the earth.  The fact that a major explosion even on the opposite side of the World might have serious consequences for both protagonists and pretty much everyone else in between just didn’t seem to occur to them.

Read the full story…

Coach Trip – USA National Parks, Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Our hotel was the one thousand seven hundred and twenty room Sahara which was a mock Moroccan Palace rising from the desert on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip and was recognisable by tall, colourful towers, which were featured prominently in the classic film Ocean’s 11 and was once a gathering spot for legends like the Rat Pack and Jack Benny and the lobby and the Thirsty Camel Bar (honestly) and others were full of old pictures of stars like Liberace and the Beatles.

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Coach Trip – USA National Parks, Zion National Park and a Nuclear Test Site

Zion

We left Kanab this morning and drove northwards again along Kanab Creek until we turned west at a junction of the road and joined West State Highway 9 on the route to Zion National Park.  We were climbing again and there were some twists and turns in the road that gave good views over the mountainous plateau that we were ascending.  We followed Pine Creek, which gave a welcome slash of verdant green slicing through the rocks and mountains that was otherwise al

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Coach Trip – USA National Parks, Bryce Canyon a Horse Ride and a Wild West Show

Bryce Canyon

A late start again today because the day ahead was not that demanding in respect of travel and we were visiting the Bryce Canyon National Park, which wasn’t too far away.  After breakfast we joined the coach and we pulled out of Kanab and headed due north.  For a few miles we followed Kanab Creek before we branched off and the road followed the East Fork Virgin River, which was in a narrow lush green valley that was in total contrast to the arid wilderness on either side of it.

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Coach Trip – USA National Parks, Lake Powell and Kanab

Lake Powell

After breakfast and check out we returned to the South Rim Visitor Centre to spend some more time at the Canyon to see it in the daylight.  It was a bit of a disappointment therefore that the weather was slightly overcast and without the stimulating sunlight to create shadows and contrasts this seemed to leech the colours and the life from the rocks.

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Coach Trip – USA National Parks, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon

Monument Valley

It was another early start today and so early that it was still dark when we checked out and boarded the coach because there was a lot of travelling ahead as we headed west to Arizona and the Grand Canyon.  Our first stop today was at the Four Corners monument where four States meet at one intersection and it is possible to be in all of them at the same time by standing in two and reaching down and touching the others.  To get there we drove across a featureless landscape where distant mountains stood like islands in an ocean of desert and through a landscape scoured by erosion, a skeletal land stripped of all but the most minimal vegetation.

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Coach Trip – USA National Parks, Arches

Arches National Park

Today at the start of the second week of our holiday we were driving towards Southeast Utah which is part of the arid rocky expanse of the Colorado Plateau and is an area of land that is dissected by the immense canyons of the Colorado River and a high desert region that can experience wide temperature fluctuations, sometimes over forty degrees in a single day.  Summer temperatures often exceed one hundred Fahrenheit, making the region a bit uncomfortable I imagine, so we were pleased to be here in October on a very pleasant sunny day with a big blue sky and a perfect temperature.

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