trinitite display

The plaque I made to display our trinitite and to commemorate our visit. Click for larger image.

In 1996, my father and I visited the Trinity Test Site at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. It was there that, on 1945-7-16, the world's first man-made nuclear explosion occurred. Regardless of one's feelings about nuclear war (Dad and I, like most sane folk, are opposed), the site is a fascinating bit of political and scientific history, and is host to an absolutely unique artifact, the mineral specimen known as Trinitite. Trinitite is sand which has been fused into a greenish glass by the heat of plutonium fission. Although collection of trinitite is technically forbidden, it is quite common for people to do so. In point of fact, having recently read Douglas Coupland's then-timely Generation X (which features the substance), I visited Trinity with the primary intention of collecting some.

A high-resolution scan of two small (~1cm across) pieces of trinitite.  The crystalline structure of the left specimen clearly indicates its origin in fused sand.

Trinitite as it appears in situ.  At the site, a small portion of the original post-blast surface has been preserved beneath a covered frame. Click for larger image.

Trinitite, like Trinity itself, is still mildly radioactive. Although this radioactivity is extremely low-level, it's not the sort of thing you want to have under your pillow while you sleep.

Myself, in 1997, at the obelisk which marks the location of ground zero. Click for ~5MB image.

The archetypal retro radiation-hazard sign. Click for larger image.

Visitor exposure levels at the Trinity site are minimal.  Nonetheless, only so much time is allowed within the fenced area containing ground zero. Click for larger image.

With the possibly of under-pillow storage sadly extinguished, I decided a wall-mounted display would be appropriate, and so I made the brass-and-aluminum-plated wooden plaque pictured at the top of this page. All parts were hand-cut and -polished. Rub-on transfer lettering was also applied by hand. The clear window over the Trinitite itself was cut from the side of a detergent bottle. Access to the display compartment is through the reverse face. The finished plaque was presented to my father on Father's Day, 1997. Several good pieces of trinitite remained, however, and after several years I made a smaller, crappier version (below) to display them in my own home.

The smaller plaque I made for storage and display in my own home, and subsequently sold.

Eventually, however, I became dissatisfied with the quality of the workmanship on the second plaque and sold it, sans trinitite, on eBay. Its contents were transferred to a small foam-padded plastic case, below, and are now displayed on top of a bookcase.

My trinitite collection today.