Archive for June, 2010

My Atomic Explosion

June 5th, 2010 Comments off

It was 1969, and I was invited by the US overnment to observe the explosion of an atomic device in Colorado.

I was invited, because I’d asked to be invited, as a registered journalist.  At the time, I was editor of “the Divine Times”, which was an instrument of Divine Light mission, the organization of Guru Maaraj Ji.  I was living in an ashram of Divine Light mission, and editing this basically propoganda sheet for the org.  We had high hopes for the Divine Times, that it would evolve into legitimate newspaper like Rev. Moon’s Washington Times.  But at the time, we were just a propoganda rag.

At any rate, I and my two assistant editors, Judy and Dave, had cajoled our way onto the invitation list for a news conference with the Governor of Colorado, at the time Richard Lamb and viewing of the explosion.  A part of the Operation Plowshare (a project conceived under the Eisenhower administration), this was to be a test of nuclear devices put to peaceful use — in this case, an underground detonation of a 40-kiloton device ( four times the size of the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima).  The perpose was, it was said, to “fracture” natural gas deposits in the limestone shale, creating a giant, glass-lined bubble full of natural gas.

The event was nominally in Rulison Colorado, which is a small town, just off Interstate 70, on Colorado’s Western Slope.  Definitely cow country, high, arid, suitable for ranches and not much else.  The place was really in a non-entity called Parachute, Colo., about 40 miles from Rifle, Colo, and 20 miles off the interstate.  This was only about a four hour drive from Denver, up the precipitous eastern slope and through the Eisenhower Tunnel along I70.  Our little VW bus chugged its way up, though slowly.

We spent the night at a motel in Rifle, in my mind a desolate little town, though it might have been a thriving community in the minds of the ranchers in the hundreds of square miles of which it was the center.  I remember having breakfast in a diner there, and feeling way out of things, especially considering that we three were strict vegetarians, and about the only thing on the menu we could eat was toast.  No grits out west.

The morning of the Event (I keep trying to find a better name for it than ‘The Event,’ but keep coming back to that.), we drove to the appointed gathering area, and joined a long line of CBS, NBC, ABC and local affiliated stations’ cars and vans, jammed with reporters and cameramen.

Up a long, twisting, dusty road our caravan drove, to end up at a mesa overlooking the explosion site.  We all lined up along the edge of the mesa.  Before us were an infinity of arroyos, canyons, mesas, cry creek beds, more canyons, stretching to the horizon.

We had heard that there were some anti-nuclear protestors who were occupying the site of the undergraound nuclear test, but we could see none of that.  We, representatives of the Free Press, wee shielded from all that.

There was someone “explaining” what we were about to see, but nol one paid any attention to him; we were all just waiting to see what might happen.

There was a count-down of sorts.  Then the moment.  A jolt, then a few seconds-long trempbling.  The stretch of canyons and mesas in front of us blurred for a moment.  Then a noise low and rumbling, as if the earth was moaning. When the earth stopped moving, was when we realized it had been doing so.

From every canyon, arroyo, mesa, creek bed for the hundereds of square miles we could see in front of us, arose atomic cloud-shaped puffs of dust, as every poorly balanced rock and stone and boulder in that desert was knocked off balance and tumbled to the ground, rolling down the hillsides, into the rills and valleys of this desert, so that the dky became muted with brown-grey dust that formed a low cloud over us, the slowly lifted and was wafted away by a light westerly breeze.

I think there was some scattered applause from the assembled journalists and dignitaries, but not much.  Rather, there was a stunnde silence, a sort of standing-in-awe at the magnitude of what we had just seen.  No blinding flash, no booming roar, no towering pillar of ashen atomic mushroom cloud.  But that near-silent uplifting of the entire earth, the low moan, the silently spuming rock cascade, was an utterly transmorgrifying experience.

After The Event, there was a press scrimmage around the Governor, whom I asked a question, and was scared to death by all the microphones and cameras trained on me as I did so.  He had been talking about his discussions with the President about the creation of a cabinet secretary for Enegy, and I asked him if he was interested in the job: he brushed my question off.  The logical follow=-up would have been, “When do you start?” and indeed, he did become the “Energy Czar” shourtly after, but I’m such an intrepid reporter I was completely verklumpt after my first question.

Here’s what it test looked like:


Categories: politicas, Uncategorized Tags: