Oak Ridge, TN
Heiskell (Knoxville), TN - Events of Monday, October 5 to Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is located about 30 minutes from Heiskell. Oak Ridge was the location of a secret city established at the beginning of WWII for the Manhattan Project, which was the code name for the secret project to build an atomic bomb. We headed to Oak Ridge on Monday to visit the American Museum of Science and Energy.
Originally called the American Museum of Atomic Energy, the museum first opened in 1949 in a WWII-era cafeteria. The present facility was opened in 1975. The name was changed to the American Museum of Science and Energy in 1978.
Outside the museum was a steel sculpture of the World Trade Center on loan from Limor Steel in Nashville.
Also outside was a pair of parabolic "Whisper Dishes." The dishes are placed about 100 feet apart, and if someone stands near the center of one dish and speaks in a whisper, a person standing next to the other dish can hear as clearly as if they were standing side by side.
Admission to the museum is a bargain at $5 for adults and $4 for seniors over 65. A popular feature of the museum is a bus tour every Monday, Wednesday and Friday of some of the remaining landmarks of the original Oak Ridge site. Seats on the bus are available on a first come, first served basis. Even though it was Monday, we decided not to do the bus tour because it doesn't start until noon and lasts three hours. That was later than we wanted to be tied up because we were planning to stop for lupper at a great place we found last year. More on that later.
Six weeks after the United States entered WWII, President Roosevelt formally approved a secret project to produce an atomic bomb. Scientists who had escaped Germany to the United States told of German efforts to produce such a weapon, and the race was on for the United States to be first.
Facilities for the Manhattan Project were located in three main sites. Site "W" near Hanford, Washington, was devoted to the production of plutonium. Site "Y" in the desert near Los Alamos, New Mexico, was where the bombs were designed, built and tested. Oak Ridge was Site "X" and was the location of uranium enrichment facilities and administration.
One reason the site at Oak Ridge was chosen was because it was located far enough from both coasts to reduce the chance of enemy attack. Its location on the Clinch River provided a good source for water, and there was also a dam nearby to provide electric power. Although the location was sparsely populated, which reduced acquisition costs, it had good access to rail transportation. The temperate climate also meant construction could go on year round.
The museum tells the history of Oak Ridge and of the Manhattan Project primarily by photos, written descriptions and videos. Construction of a secret city to house Manhattan Project workers and their families began in 1943. Oak Ridge was a self-contained city with housing, stores, theaters, schools, restaurants, sports facilities, churches and a library. The entire 59,000 acre site was completely surrounded by a fence punctuated by guard towers.
As is usually the case for any government project, this one expanded far beyond its initial estimate. It was originally thought Oak Ridge would be home for 13,000 people. The actual number was 75,000 by the end of the war. New houses were added at the rate of one every 30 minutes.
To help keep Oak Ridge secret, it did not appear on any map until after the war in spite of the fact it had 75,000 residents. For security reasons, everyone over the age of 10 was required to wear an ID badge. To further help maintain secrecy, workers at Oak Ridge were kept in the dark as to the purpose of their jobs. They worked only on their own part of the project with no knowledge of what anyone else was doing. There weren't many automobiles in Oak Ridge, but even those that belonged to top military officials were searched when they entered and left the site. The project was so top secret even Vice President Harry Truman didn't know about it until he took over the presidency following FDR's death in office in 1945.
The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. With no surrender by the Japanese forthcoming, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9. Although additional bombs were being readied, they were not necessary because Japan surrendered on August 15.
Oak Ridge was shifted to civilian control two years after the end of the war, but it remained under the authority of the Atomic Energy Commission. In 1959, the city was incorporated and was freed from federal supervision.
There is still a site in Oak Ridge that is used for nuclear weapons processing and another that is now the location of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, both of which are operated under the control of the U.S. Department of Energy.
In addition to the history of Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project, the museum also has various scientific displays and exhibits, many of which are hands-on. In the next photo, Margery is operating a remote-controlled crane to pick up blocks.
The exhibit in the photo below demonstrates the Bernoulli Effect where the upward air flow from a nozzle flows around a ball counteracting gravity and suspending the ball in mid-air. Paul was pretending to levitate the ball.
In the section of the museum on environmental protection, we came across a mannequin in a protective suit and wearing an MSA Ultra-Twin Full-facepiece Respirator. MSA is the company Paul worked for in his past life, and he did a considerable amount of work on molds for plastic components for the Ultra-Twin Facepiece and its sister product, the Ultravue Facepiece.
In the area where there was a timeline of atomic discoveries there was a giant model of an atom. The swirling lights inside simulating electrons were mesmerizing.
There is a large section of the museum that covers energy including nuclear, coal and oil. The next photo shows a scale model of an oil platform.
There is a wealth of information available at the American Museum of Science and Energy. If you wanted to see everything in detail, read all the posted information and watch all the videos, it could easily take several days.
We finished at the museum in the early afternoon, and headed for the Holy Land Market and Deli in Knoxville for a late lunch. We discovered the Holy Land Market last year. They specialize in Middle-Eastern food in both the market and the deli.
Unfortunately, even though they are supposed to be open Mondays, when we got there we found a hand-written sign in their window that said "Closed - See You Tuesday." We headed back to the 5th wheel for lunch and made plans to go back to the Holy Land Market on Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning, we did some pre-departure chores in the morning then headed back to the Holy Land Market.
We loved the Reuben sandwiches we had at Holy Land last year, so that's what we both had again this year. They make their own Kosher-style corned beef, and it is really tender.
After our late lunch, we headed back to the 5th wheel and relaxed the rest of the day in preparation for our departure the next morning. We'll tell you where we headed in our next post.