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An atomic marker hidden in plain sight?

February 3, 2020

February 3, 2020

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Industry News

By Larry Bleiberg

In the courtyard of a gift shop decorated with colourful ceramic frogs and dragonflies, it’s easy to overlook the historic marker. Perhaps that’s fitting for a secret site.

In the early 1940’s, the world’s top scientists and their families trudged through this patio, bedraggled from a cross-country train trip. Most didn’t know where they were headed. All they had were classified orders to report to the address “109 East Palace, Santa Fe, New Mexico”. When they opened the wrought iron gate, they entered what the National Historical Landmark plaque calls a “portal to their secret mission”, which was to build the atomic bomb.

They came in through the courtyard,” said Marianne Kapoun, who with her husband owns The Rainbow Man gift shop, which occupies the formerly classified facility. Visitors now enter the shop through a front door; the historical entrance where scientists like Enrico Fermi and Richard Feynman once passed, is blocked, and the walkway cluttered with dangling ceramic chillies and hand-painted jack-o-lantern gourds.

The newcomers, which included a contingent of British scientists, were issued security passes and loaded from the facility onto a bus or a Jeep for the last leg of their journey. Their destination lay 35 miles away, up tortuous, unpaved mountain roads, in the hidden settlement of Los Alamos. And what they eventually accomplished, the plaque says, was “one of the greatest scientific achievements in human history”.

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