Chase of the White Rabbit

What if the White Rabbit were chasing Alice into wonderland and not the reverse? It could be true. Really, it is simply a matter of perspective and frame-of-reference. Illusion and reality, both are mind crafting to expand the neural net while infinity keeps the edges undefined. The Cold War (1947-1991) honed the craft of government illusion and reality to an art form while the best scientific minds were freed to run wild; to touch the spheres of the infinite. In the surface’s light we, the backward talking Cold War knights, relied on direction from grinning the Cheshire cat and the wisdom of a hookah smoking caterpillar in the East. The ride was exhilarating until the players disappeared down the rabbit hole, leaving only a legacy of smoke and mirrors.

While pursuing Alice across Nevada, the white rabbit would find 84 percent of the land government owned. On the old Nevada Test site, he would find an airfield at Mercury, Nevada where ghost

News Knob Credit: Department of Energy; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (courtesy Natural Resources Defense Council); National Archives

News Knob Credit: Department of Energy; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (courtesy Natural Resources Defense Council); National Archives

airplanes were used to ferry workers to and from Tonopah and Area 51, ‘Dreamland’. As Alice kept running, they would discover Frenchman and Yucca flats, reporters and important people watched as soldiers played tag with the tail of 100 atmospheric nuclear dragons until the Limited Test Ban Treaty forced the game underground in 1962.

Before continuing the chase, the pair might want to stop off in Area 1 to see the skeletons of an old brick building or two standing as a stark testament to Civil Defense’s Apple series of tests. The 1955 Apple-2 test conducted at Survival Town tested how various types of building construction behaved in a nuclear blast. Houses and electrical substations were built, mannequins were human stand-ins in buildings and vehicles, and pantries, refrigerators and shelves were stocked with different types of canned and packaged foods. Then they bombed it to see what would happen. Other survivability tests were performed; the remains can be found tucked into various nooks and crannies on the 1,375 square mile site. Military installations were tested along with civil defense, and “backyard” shelters. Usually several similar structures were built that varied only in “..types of paint, landscaping, cleanliness of yards, wall angles, or distances from Ground Zero.”[1] You can watch the familiar footage from the Operation Cue film that was distributed by the Federal Civil Defense Administration.[2]

Most of the flat spots on the old test site are pock marked where ground subsidence filled the voids left when the rock and sand melted during the 828 underground tests of 921 devices in the region.[3]  It’s all part of the ’plan’; the bomb detonates and makes its own glass containment vessel. Strings of pearls account for the mismatch between numbers of tests and devices. Various arrangements of devices detonated in tightly timed sequences arranged the terrain in patterns resembling strings of pearls and so they were christened.

Containment was not a perfect science. In the case of the ten kiloton Baneberry event in December 1970, the containment failed and the dragon’s tail spread radioactive fallout across the test site

Baneberry Escapes

Baneberry Escapes

and several states. The tunnel rats staying in Area 12 to support the Rainier Mesa tests were decontaminated and sent home while a whole new temporary site was constructed. The DOE literature calls the new Area 12 site permanent but everything the A&E was told to do there was to be constructed as ‘temporary’ so it could be constructed cheaply; just one more funny twist of words.

Continuing, Alice and the rabbit would find the largest manmade crater in the U.S., the Sedan Crater. Edward Teller, one of the two nuclear patriarchs, believed that the nuclear dragon could be tamed for domestic use. The vision was to use nukes for building harbors, canals, mining, and other excavating work.  The Plowshare series tested the hypothesis; Sedan Crater was the result of one of the tests in the series. The LLNL tem drilled and emplaced a 104 kiloton device (about 10 times larger than the bomb used on Hiroshima) 686 feet deep. When they lit the fuse, it definitely moved a lot of dirt! In fact it irradiated and moved over 7.5 million tons of dirt and spread it more or less evenly across 2,500 acres leaving a crater1,280 feet in diameter and 320 feet deep in its wake.[4] The ground moved. The seismic waves were equivalent to an earthquake registering 4.8 on the Richter scale and the event is credited with contaminating more U.S. citizens than any other nuclear test. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, Alice and the White Rabbit might want to tarry there and wonder as the tumbleweeds dance to some unheard music in the crater, as I have done many times.

Turning northwest and running up the road, the pair would pass a large substation that fed lifeblood energy to Area 51 and marvel at beauty of Rainier Mesa rising behind Area 12. The old mesa took sixty one nuclear tests in stride and is still standing tall and proud. “…In 2001, the government indicated periodic testing might resume, ensuring the nation’s nuclear stockpile is still functional. As of 2007, there is a two-year readiness period before testing could resume should the president lift the moratorium….” It is clear to any White Rabbit that it would take much longer than two years to resume testing, even for stockpile testing. The people with testing knowledge and skills are disappearing into the void at an alarming rate.

The White Rabbit is being led a merry chase and they head further north and west for the

Solitude and Bristle Cone Pine now rule the Nevada Test site

Solitude and Bristle Cone Pine now rule the Nevada Test site

remnants of an old shield volcano called Pahute Mesa. The best efforts of LLNL on eighty one tests didn’t even cause a dent. The mesa with its bristle cone pines, mountain lions, and eagles lives on.

On their way back to the gate, they should stop off in the hills of Area 26 and see the Horn Silver Mine. Test site workers have spent many hours plotting to get the gold out of that old shaft. Gold was used as a type of shield in the early nuclear tests and the rumor is the contaminated metal was thrown down the shaft by the ton. Of course every other contaminated thing was thrown down the mine shaft as well. The shaft is 500 feet deep and it is filled to within 150 feet of the surface so it is chock full of goodies from the days of the nuclear cowboys.[5]

The White Rabbit and Alice have had their fun. The Cheshire cat now runs the Nevada National Security Site, a tour operation and museum instead of a nuclear test site. The hookah smoking caterpillar back East is still spouting words of wisdom that make no sense and we, the backward talking Cold War knights, wander around wondering if the lessons learned and the legacy will be incorporated into a better world or lost in time and space. Thank you, Grace Slick.


[3] Underground Nuclear Testing at the Nevada Test Site;

[5] Corrective Action Investigation Plan for Corrective Action Unit 527: Horn Silver Mine, Nevada Test Site, Nevada: Revision 1 (Including Records of Technical Change No.1, 2, 3, and 4);


2 thoughts on “Chase of the White Rabbit

    • LOL, I completely understand! Please know that on the Nevada Test Site we had ‘Yellow Tape’. It had special properties and the radiation safety types would mark off trails for us. There was radiation exposure on the other side of the tape but none where we were walking. I thought the magic tape was very handy! Solidus

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