1941 December, public land grazing leases are cancelled on the newly formed Alamagordo Bombing and Gunnery Range.
1945 July 16 the first atomic bomb is detonated at Trinity Site.
After writing about the Ka’u Desert a few days ago my mind started a link to an adventure in another desert several years ago. Yin and Yang. This one not hard and blackened rocky sculpture but soft and white, windstrewn crystal dunes.White Sands National Monument ( 32 deg. 46’47″N, 106 deg. 10’10″W ) is a 115 acre preserve of great natural wonder and is bordered by the largest military installation in the United States (3,200 sg. mi., 8,300 km sg.), White Sands Missile Range another great wonder.
In south central New Mexico the Tularosa Basin, surrounded by the San Andres and Sacramento mountains, is the largest gypsum deposit in the world. 100 million years ago there was a shallow sea and as the water receded immense salt lakes appeared. Massive upheavel formed the mountains and gypsum beds were forced upward 70 million years ago.
Gypsum is the most common mineral compound on earth but is rarely seen on the surface. The mineral is water soluable and as rain would come and percolate the surrounding mountains the gypsum would dissolve and be washed down to Lake Lucero at the lower end of the Tularosa Basin. The basin is endorheic, there is no water that flows out. With no drainage the water evaporates and leaves crystallized gypsum – Selenite. Weathering reduces the crystals to fine sand and the wind carries it off, building dunes. Dynamic dune fields building for eons, migrating some as much as 30′ per year. These gypsum sands reflect the suns heat and do not get hot as quartz might do and one can walk barefoot here even at the height of summer. There are 275 sg. miles (710 Km sg.) of crystal gypsum dunes at White Sands. The worlds second largest deposit like this is at Cuatro Cien’egas in central Mexico. That deposit is 8 sg. miles.
Man has had a long history in the area. Spanish conquistadors came through and shepherds to but it is the Apache that held the land until the U.S. Army built forts in the 1800s and then Texans came with cattle. The military took control during World War II and there has been the Trinity Test, rocket tests, missiles fired, NASA failures and success but that is all another story. I came here for peace and to explore the beauty of the earth.