witnessing the awesome
blast, Oppenheimer quoted a line from a sacred Hindu text, the
He said: "I am become death, the shatterer of worlds." In Los
Alamos 230 miles to the north, a group of scientists' wives who had
up all night for the not so secret test, saw the light and heard the
sound. One wife, Jane Wilson, described it this way, "Then it came. The
blinding light [no] one had ever seen. The trees, illuminated, leaping
out. The mountains flashing into life. Later, the long slow
Something had happened, all right, for good or ill."
Groves' deputy commander,
Brigadier General T. F. Farrell, described the explosion in great
"The effects could well be called unprecedented, magnificent,
stupendous, and terrifying. No man-made phenomenon of such tremendous
had ever occurred before. The lighting effects beggared description.
whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many
that of the midday sun. It was golden, purple, violet, gray, and
blue. It lighted every peak, crevasse and ridge of the nearby
range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be
to be imagined..."
after the test
a Sherman M-4 tank, equipped with its own air supply, and lined with
inches of lead went out to explore the site. The lead lining
12 tons to the tank's weight, but was necessary to protect its
from the radiation levels at ground zero. The tank's passengers found
the 100-foot steel tower had virtually disappeared, with only the metal
and concrete stumps of its four legs remaining. Surrounding
zero was a crater almost 2,400 feet across and about ten feet deep in
Desert sand around the tower had been fused by the intense heat of the
blast into a jade colored glass. This atomic glass was given the
name Atomsite, but the name was later changed to Trinitite.
100 Suns - By Michael Light -
July 1945 and November
1962 the United States is known to have conducted 216 atmospheric and
nuclear tests. After the Limited Test Ban Treaty between the United
and the Soviet Union in 1963, nuclear testing went underground. It
literally invisible—but more frequent: the United States conducted a
723 underground tests, the last in 1992. 100 Suns documents the era of
visible nuclear testing, the atmospheric era, with 100 photographs
by Michael Light from the archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory
the U.S. National Archives in Maryland. It includes previously
material from the clandestine Lookout Mountain Air Force Station based
in Hollywood, whose film directors, cameramen and still photographers
sworn to secrecy.
The title, 100 Suns, refers
to the response by J. Robert Oppenheimer to the world’s first nuclear
in New Mexico when he quoted a passage from the Bhagavad Gita, the
Vedic text: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst forth at
once in the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One... I
am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” This was Oppenheimer’s
to describe the otherwise indescribable. 100 Suns likewise confronts
indescribable by presenting without embellishment the stark evidence of
the tests at the moment of detonation. Since the tests were conducted
in Nevada or the Pacific the book is simply divided between the desert
and the ocean. Each photograph is presented with the name of the test,
its explosive yield in kilotons or megatons, the date and the location.
The enormity of the events recorded is contrasted with the understated
neutrality of bare data.
Interspersed within the sequence of
are pictures of the awestruck witnesses. The evidence of these
is terrifying in its implication while at same time profoundly
as a spectacle. The visual grandeur of such imagery is balanced by the
chilling facts provided at the end of the book in the detailed
a chronology of the development of nuclear weaponry and an extensive
A dramatic sequel to Michael Light’s Full Moon,
100 Suns forms an
unprecedented historical document.