Monday, December 31, 2007

Atomic Bomb Assembly Buildings Hike - December 29, 2007

On December 29, I was a little surprised by the turnout for this hike. There were 14 people, including me, that were going on it. Even Dan and Ariuka had come back from Saipan to join the hike. Dan had been recently transfered to Saipan. Additionally, we had visitors form Japan and Saipan joining us on the hike.

The purpose of this hike was to find the other two atomic bomb assembly buildings on Tinian. I know about one of these buildings, but in the last few months, I had been informed that there were two more buildings. After looking on Google Earth, I thought I had found the outline of the berm for the other two buildings. They were about 0.2 miles apart, and north of the building that I knew about. From Google Earth, I was able to get coordinates to program into my GPS.

Because of the large number of people, I suggested that we carpool in more than just my truck. So, there were three vehicles that drove close to the first atomic bomb assembly building. Because the road gets real bad near the ruins of the first building, everyone had to load into my truck for the last quarter-mile of the drive. In the picture below you can see everyone loading into my poor old truck.
Once we got to the first atomic bomb assembly building, everyone got out of the truck and explored the foundations that remained at this site. In the picture below everyone is standing on the cement apron outside the building's foundations, I guess, listening to me talk about it. The rise in the background is the berm that surrounds the building, mostly for security purposes, and also, to protect the nearby airfield in case of an explosion when the bomb was being assembled. There are a lot of high explosive involved in building an atomic bomb, and probably this was the real concern more than an atomic explosion.

In the picture below are Deana and Patty standing inside the foundation of the first building. From my understanding, this was the building where the "Little Boy" bomb was assembled. This area had been cleared for the 50th Anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan. So it was still easy to see the foundation.

On some of the weeds near the foundations, I happened to see a Passion Flower (Passiflora sp.). While hiking, I like looking for the ripe fruits of this plant to snack on while walking. They have to be orange to be ripe. Unfortunately on this hike I didn't find any ripe fruits.
After looking at the first atomic bomb building sites, we headed out to look for the other two buildings. We had to walk back by my truck to start the hike and to get around the berm that surrounds the assembly building. Most of this hike would be through secondary tangantangan forest.
As we followed the berm on the east side of the first assembly building, we came upon a road just north of the berm. You can sort of see the road in the picture below, going from right to left. Where the down trees run across the middle of the picture is the road. I decided to follow the road to see where it went. It followed the north side of the berm and started to turn south, that is where I decided to leave the road and head north.
While following the road, we happened to come upon a coconut crab (Birgus latro) that was out in the middle of the day. You can see it in the bottom of the picture, just in front of Dan.

Below is a closeup of the crab, taken by Judy. If you look closely, you can tell it is a female because in has eggs below its tail (the orange dots between the legs and the claws).

Another picture, below, by Judy shows a nest with an egg in it. After a little research, I think this is an egg of the Tinian Monarch. The only other bird that could have laid this egg is the Rufous Fantail, but from what I read, their eggs are white with brown or olive spots on them. I happened to have missed this nest, which is one of the problems of being a leader. I seem to spend most of my time trying to find a path and avoid boonie bees (not too successfully on the latter most of the time).

The coordinates I got from Google Earth lead us to the second building with no problem. It was overgrown and the foundation was barely visible. In the picture below is Mr. Hoshi standing on the foundation of the second atomic bomb building. This is the building that the "Fat Man" bomb was assembled in.

The foundation was hard to see for the building because of the ground cover. It the picture below the foundation runs horizontally through the middle of the picture.

After visiting the second atomic bomb assembly building, we headed to the third building. I happened to travel a little to east of the direction that we needed to follow to the third building site. We came upon a large clearing, with lots of grass and vines that I did not want to cross. In the picture below, you can see some of the weeds and vines in the clearing. They are covered with a parasitic plant called dodder (Cuscuta and Grammica family).

Below is a closeup of dodder. It is the twisting green vines in the picture that don't have leaves. Dodder grows roots into the stems of other plants and sucks their sap. It is sort of like a plant vampire.
After the little detour, I got us back on track to the third atomic bomb assembly building by using my GPS. We ended up just to the east of the berm that surrounded this building. I asked if everyone wanted to walk around the berm or go over it. Of course the two boys on the hike, Micky and Patty, wanted to go over the berm. So it was over we went. The berms are fairly steep as can been seen in the pictures below.
In the picture of above is Micky standing at the top of the berm while Judy and the rest struggle to reach the top.

This building was more open and the foundation was easier to see than the second building site, most likely because of the larger tangantangan trees growing here. I am not sure if this building was completed or not. As we entered the site, there was a trench on the south end of the building. It looked like it was dug for the installation of either water or drainage pipes. Judy is standing by the trench in the picture below. If you look carefully in the picture below, you can also see the other hikers coming down the berm.

Below is a picture of all the hikers on the trip at the site of the third atomic bomb assembly building. From left to right, front to back, are me, Judy, Aruika, Yoko, Mitch, and Dan in the first row. In the middle row are Micky, Patty, Mr. Hoshi, and Erica. In the back row are Peter, Deana, Yuki, and, barely visible, Stacy.

Here is a better picture of the group taken by Judy, with Ariuka taking a picture at the same time. There are always a lot of pictures taken on these hikes.

Below is a picture of the foundation for the third building, As you can see in the picture, there is a lot less undergrowth obscuring the foundation, unlike the second atomic bomb assembly building.

Additionally, the trees have started to invade the concrete slab that is part of the foundation for this building, as you can see in the picture below and above. This is most likely the reason for less ground cover on this building's foundation. The trees are shading it out.

We did a quick hike back to the first assembly building after visiting the third building. We got to the berm on the north side of the building site and I asked everyone if they wanted to walk around the berm or climb it. All said they wanted the shortest route (I guess they were tried of walking over downed tangantangan trees and fighting vines). So it was over the berm and back to the truck.

We quickly loaded up in my truck and headed back to the cars. As we got near the cars, I decided to hijack the group and go to Lamlam Beach, one of the beaches used by the United States armed forces to invade Tinian during World War II (click here to learn more about the invasion). Lamlam Beach is a little over a quarter mile from where we parked the cars. In the picture below, Stacy is taking a picture of Ariuka on the point above Lamlam Beach, with Peter standing to the left.

Lamlam is a really small beach. It was an amazing feat that the U.S. was even able to land troops on this beach. It is no wonder that the Japanese were completely caught by surprise during this invasion.

Everyone really enjoyed this trip. It was not the most spectacular trip, but it was very interesting because of its historical aspects. I have to thank Judy and Mitch of some of the pictures in this posting.

As for the boonie bee count, it was two people, and not me this time. Mitch got stung as we started out at the first building site and Dan got stung on the return to the first building site from the third site. It seems that the StingEze I carry on these hikes. After applying it to the bee stings there seemed to be no more complaints.

On the next hike will be to look for the Latte Stone site above the Tinian Shinto Shrine near Carolinas Heights. The hike will be fairly steep in some places but not too bad. We may have to climb one small cliff (not too hard) to get to the largest stones at this site. Of course, I am not sure if I can find them again since I have only been to them once before. We will meet at 8 AM, on January 5, Saturday, at Grace Christian School as always. I will be posting the rest of January hikes in a day or so, so check back for updates.

Everyone is welcome to join in on these hikes.

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