Friday, July 25, 2014

It's a Bomb--at the Manhattan Project!

Heiskell, Tennessee
Raccoon Valley RV Park
Pull Thru #42

Yesterday we said our "see ya's" to Polly and Vern who were headed to Georgia, and Eddie and Rosie who were going to Louisville.
Bill and I pulled out last as we didn't have far to go.  Our travels took us up I 75 to Heiskell, TN to the Escapees Raccoon Valley RV Park.  

One thing I forgot to mention in my last blog about the Tennessee Railroad was that you could ride up with the engineer but you had to have closed toes shoes.  I was in sandals, and disappointed I couldn't do it.

Now for today, how do I start?  Heiskell is outside of Knoxville and not too far from Heiskell is Oak Ridge.  Do you  know what Oak Ridge is famous for?  If you said the Oak Ridge Boys you'd be correct, but that's not what we saw today.  

Total cost of $4.00 a piece gave us entrance to the American Museum of Science & Energy and the included a 3 hour tour of Oak Ridge, aka Manahattan Project facility. We spent the whole day and it only cost us $8.00 for the two of us.  

Lucky for us, we got an early start and were able to sign up for the bus tour as they do not take reservations.  The bus tour left at noon and didn't have an empty seat.  

We had almost two hours to view the exhibits but we just barely got to the second floor and we didn't have time for the auditorium demonstrations.  

I can't imagine the undertaking and secrecy in this project.  
Click on the photo to enlarge it to view the letter

Can you imagine receiving a letter dated November 11, 1942 stating you have until December 1st to vacate your property which will be "material aid to the War Effort."

I know some people that need almost a week to pack their RV's for a trip.  

The project was initially designed for about 13,000 people but it grew to a peak of 75,000.  They worked 24/7 building it with 10,000 apartments, 13,000 dorm spaces, 5,000 trailers and over 16,000 hutments.  They were building 32 houses per day.  This required over 300 miles of roads and 55 miles of railroad.  The site had 9 square miles of fence that surrounded the 60,000 acres and had army guards at every entrance.  

Eight elementary schools, junior and senior high schools, nursery schools, bus service, recreational facilities, a fully staffed hospital were all built.  Trainloads of supplies would be delivered to the small towns near Oak Ridge since "Oak Ridge" wasn't even on the map.  

The people that were employed had no idea what they were working on.
Confiscated at the check points.
These women were told to turn a knob "this way" but they had no idea what they were doing or why until the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  

These were on the second floor.

The uranium was processed at the Y-12 Plant at Oak Ridge for these bombs.

This was an original flattop house which housed many of the residents depending on the importance of their job.  
It was very cosy for that time period.
It was a much nicer kitchen than I had as a child.  
This two bedroom house has 576 square feet.

The bus tour was packed and once again we had to show identification.  They did not mention as they did in Huntsville at the Space Museum that you had to be a US citizen for the bus tour.  

Our first stop after going through a check point, which we weren't allowed to photograph, was to the Y-12 building.  They showed a short video and we were able to walk through the displays.  
I guess I must still be in space mood. I found this Moon Box which was used to transport the moon rocks which they didn't want contaminated by the earth's atmosphere fascinating.  I had no idea of all the things that are made there.  

We passed many building that we weren't allowed to enter. All work in these buildings were classified.    

I had no idea how large a place this is.
We were allowed to get off the bus at this church which was representative of the one that was used  from 1851-1942.
The graveyard had graves dating back to the Revolutionary War.
We were told Homeland Security was in some of these buildings but not what they do there.
The world's second fastest computer is in one of these buildings. The race between China and the United States for superiority causes this race to continue. 

Our next stop was the X-10 Graphite Reactor which began operating on November 4, 1943.  This is where the plutonium was produced.  Our tour guide told us it could be put back into production.  It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and is accessible via the guided bus tour.  
This building was huge.

We were allowed to walk up to the reactor control room.
Somehow, I thought there would have been more gauges and dials.  
You wouldn't have to tell me twice to leave!  This Graphite Reactor is the same kind as Chernobyl.
There were more exhibits which explained how they are using isotopes in today's world. 
One thing of interest during World War II, was that they needed large amounts of copper.  "The Army did something that could only be done in wartime--they borrowed nearly 14,000 tons of pure silver from the US Treasury. "  This silver was fabricated into strips and wound onto coils as a substitute for copper.   How would you like to have done the paperwork on that transaction?  

All in all, even though chemistry is my least favorite subject we both enjoyed the visit.  

I'm still amazed that our $4.00 admission also included two dvd's and copies of the letter from Albert Einstein in a gift bag.  Bill and I both received a bag.  

I almost forgot to mention the Twin Tower sculpture which stood out front of the Museum.  

It was after 4 when we returned, but we went straight to the clubhouse for Happy Hour.  We really enjoyed ourselves and promised to be back tomorrow.  

Turtle Safely......

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