A Landing a Day

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Indian Springs and Mercury, Nevada

Posted by graywacke on July 4, 2017

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I use an app that provides a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”

I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town or towns I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. 

To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2354; A Landing A Day blog post number 785.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (36o 35.295’N, 115o 55.021’W) puts me in far S Nevada:

My local landing map shows my two titular towns (and not much else!):

My StreetAtlas map shows me nothing of great significance concerning my watershed, so I’ll head straight to Google Earth (GE).  Hop on board, fasten your seatbelt and head for the Nevada desert.  Make sure you’ve got plenty o’ liquids for hydration, then click HERE.

So here’s a local GE shot showing my entire watershed analysis:

As you can see, runoff from that rare desert storm heads east, and ends up collecting in the general vicinity of the Elevation 3014 yellow push pin.  I added the various elevation pushpins in to show you that the water has no choice as to where it ends up.

How about that!  An obvious major road (U.S. Route 95) is right next to my landing:

And here’s what the Orange Dude sees:

The “town” of Mercury is nothing more than a government community to house employees of the Nevada Test Site (a huge piece of real estate located north of Route 95).  Its population (and infrastructure) peaked in the 1960s, at the height of our nuclear testing program.  It had 10,000 people.  The last underground nuclear test was in 1993, and according to Wiki, “the town is a shell of its former self,” with an unknown population, but likely somewhere around 500.

Here’s a GE Pano shot of the town (Photo Shop enhanced) by Brent Cooper:

Anyway, Yucca Flat is where the actual nuclear testing went on.  Here’s a GE shot showing both Yucca Flat and the mysterious “Area 51.”

Here’s a closer view of Yucca:

All of the circles are craters, the result of underground nuclear tests.  See the big crater at the far north end?  That’s Storax Sedan; more about that in a minute.

From Wiki:

Yucca Flat is a closed desert drainage basin, the site for 739 nuclear tests – nearly four of every five tests carried out at the Nevada Test Site.

Yucca Flat has been called “the most irradiated, nuclear-blasted spot on the face of the earth”.   In March 2009, TIME identified the 1970 Yucca Flat “Baneberry” Test, where 86 workers were exposed to radiation, as one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.

[More about Baneberry in a bit.]

“Storax Sedan” [strange that they named the nuclear tests!] was a shallow underground nuclear test conducted at Yucca Flat as part of Operation Plowshare, a program to investigate the use of nuclear weapons for mining, cratering, and other civilian purposes.

The radioactive fallout from the test contaminated more US residents than any other nuclear test. The Sedan Crater is the largest man-made crater in the United States, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here’s my GE shot of the crater:

Here’s a Wiki shot of the Storax Sedan blast:

And the crater:

Back to Wiki:

The “Baneberry” shot was on December 18, 1970. The Baneberry 10 kiloton test detonated 900 ft below the surface but its energy cracked the soil in unexpected ways, causing a fissure near ground zero and the failure of the shaft and cap.

A plume of fire and dust was released three and a half minutes after ignition, raining fallout on workers in different locations within NTS.

Here’s a Wiki pic of the “leak”:

I found out that there is an annual (only one per year) escorted tourist excursion to visit the Nevada Test Site.  There’s a great (and funny) article entitled “My Atomic Holiday” from The Atlantic (June 2012, article by Graeme Wood).  Click HERE to check it out.  Here’s a picture of the Storax Sedan crater from the article:

Of course, we must check out Area 51.  From Wiki:

The U.S. Air Force base commonly known as Area 51 is a highly classified facility [technically part of Edwards Air Force Base] within the Nevada Test Site.

The base’s current primary purpose is publicly unknown; however, based on historical evidence, it most likely supports the development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems (black projects).  The intense secrecy surrounding the base has made it the frequent subject of conspiracy theories and a central component to unidentified flying object (UFO) folklore.

JFTHOI, I counted the cars parked at Area 51:

There you have it.  211 cars (or there abouts), presumably driven by people that work here. 

The area around Area 51, including the small town of Rachel on the “Extraterrestrial Highway”, is a popular tourist destination.

Here’s a GE shot of Rachel and the Extraterrestrial Highway:

So get this.  I was with my brother-in-law Peter a few weeks ago, and I heard him telling a story about taking a trip to check out Area 51 – I heard something about white SUVs and “camo dudes.”  I’ll admit that I didn’t pay close attention – I mean, after all – he’s just my brother-in-law.  But now that I’ve landed here, I thought I’d give him a call and get the lowdown.

This happened maybe 10 years ago when his wife Amy went to a professional conference in Las Vegas, and Peter decided to take a few days off and go out there with her.  So one day while she was conferencing, Peter decided to take a day trip and explore the Area 51 environs.

He headed north towards Rachel, and turned left on an unmarked dirt road that lead to the northern perimeter of Area 51.  There were no other vehicles on the road; he was driving a rental convertible, enjoying the scenery and solitude.

Here’s a GE Pano shot of “Groom Lake Road” (by foast2foast):


Suddenly, two white Chevy Suburbans blew past him.  They didn’t stop or bother him in any way.  According to Peter, the occupants were “camo dudes.”  Eventually (about 13 miles from the main drag), he came up to a plethora of warning signs.  Peter mentioned that one of the signs says “No Photography.”  Funny – there are about a dozen Pano pictures of the signs.  He also mentioned signs that say (of course) that trespassers are subject to arrest and imprisonment and that “deadly force” can be used. 

Here’s one of the signs (Pano by Tim Drivas):

And another from Wiki:

Peter said that he could see a white SUV on a nearby hill and he knew he was being watched. Here’s a Pano shot (by Andre/Tammy324) that’s maybe similar to what Peter saw:

He kept going until he saw a gate.  He snapped a quick picture (current status of the photo unknown).  Here’ a shot of the gate by Montes994:

He turned around, checked out Rachel, then headed back to Las Vegas. 

When we talked, Peter told me to Google “camo dudes,” so I did.  From a NY Daily News article by Laura Bult:

Thrill seekers and paranormal enthusiasts who have attempted to break into Nevada’s infamous Area 51 have almost all certainly been thwarted by armed men dressed in camouflage behind the wheel of a white unmarked pick-up truck.

These armed government contractors, dubbed “Camo Dudes” by Area 51 aficionados because of their military-style workwear, are shrouded in nearly as much secrecy as the 38,400-acre military testing site they protect.

Nearly all the trespassers are curious about the conspiracy theories that surround Area 51, which lies up to 10 miles within the base’s border.

“They’re there for pretty much one reason,” Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee told the Daily News. “This is the middle of nowhere. It’s the middle of the desert. I see very few (trespasses) that are accidents,” he said.

The guards who patrol the site are alerted to intruders by sensors on the dirt roads and are authorized to detain them until sheriff’s deputies arrive. Roughly two to three people break into the area a month and get a $500 citation, Lee says.

Signs at the entrance to the Air Force base give the “Camo Dudes” authorization to use deadly force on trespassers, according to some who have attempted to break into the mysterious base.

“According to signs at the border, use of deadly force is authorized. They can shoot you,” Glenn Campbell, who lived near and researched Area 51 for 10 years in an attempt to spot extraterrestrial activity. He never saw a UFO, but he caught sight of the “Camo Dudes” on the occasions he entered the base, Campbell said.

Here’s a quick YouTube piece entitled “Arrest at Area 51,” posted by akexposures:

Time to move on to Indian Springs.  From Wiki:

In 1906 Indian Springs became a way station and watering place for the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad. The original rail line ran under what is now Highway 95. The LV&T ceased operation in 1918.

Here’s a GE shot of Indian Springs:

As you can see, the town is south of Route 95, and an air base N of 95.  But where are the springs?  I did a little poking around on GE Street View, and found this green section of town (near the word “Indian” on the above shot):

Wow.  Never guess Nevada, eh?  Anyway, less than half a mile away, just outside of town, here’s another Street View shot:

Back to Wiki:

Indian Springs Auxiliary Airfield also known as Indian Springs Field, was rapidly constructed in Nevada by the United States Army Air Forces the month after the Pearl Harbor attack. Indian Springs was immediately entered into service as a training camp for Army Air Force B-25 air-to-air gunnery training.

In 1947 Las Vegas AAF inactivated, and so did Indian Springs.

One year later, Indian Springs was reactivated as Indian Springs Air Force Base by the new United States Air Force.

Note:  B-25s were featured in the famous Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in April 1942, not long after Pearl Harbor.  I featured the raid in my April 2017 Ravenna MT post.  I’m sure that crew members from that raid trained right here. 

Moving along, I found an interesting story on LVStripHistory.com.  In their piece on the history of Indian Springs, they were featuring an early resident, a Mr. Lattimer.  Here’s an excerpt:

. . . in the summer of 1906, George & Belle Lattimer came to Indian Springs.

Mr. Lattimer was bitten on the arm by some poisonous insect, and the arm swelled badly and became very painful. His wife realized that he must have medical care so she made the best bed she could in the wagon, hitched up the team and started on the long ride to Las Vegas late in the afternoon of a fearfully hot day. The Lattimers had a young Indian boy living with them who helped with the ranch work. His name was Coachie Siegmuller and his parents lived at the Moapa Indian Reservation. Coachie was left in charge of things while the Lattimers were gone.

When Belle and her husband reached Vegas they came to me for help and I got the Railroad Physician to look after the suffering man. he sent them to Los Angeles on the evening train as blood poisoning had set in and he was afraid that the man might lose his arm. About a week later the Lattimers returned to Las Vegas, George being on the way of complete recovery.

While they were gone, a day or so after they had left the ranch for medical help, Coachie was sitting on the front steps. He noticed a small cloud of dust in the road to the ranch and kept a close watch on whatever it was. Later he was horrified when he identified the man approaching as ‘Wild Bill,’ a bad Indian of whom Coachie was very much afraid, so he quietly got out of sight as Wild Bill reached the porch, on the north side of the house, and sat down to rest.

From a sitting position Bill finally stretched out on his back and was soon sound asleep. Coachie was afraid to be alone with the visitor and also felt that it was his duty to protect the home of his friends so he slipped into the kitchen and took down the rifle from its nail behind the kitchen door. He crept noiselessly around the house, rested the muzzle of the rifle on the porch rail and shot Wild Bill through the head.

Then he started for his parent’s home at the Reservation where in about 10 days he was arrested for the murder of Wild Bill. He readily admitted the shooting, but seemed to think that it was a good deed and that he should be rewarded instead of punished.

When the Lattimers neared home they smelled Bill long before they reached the house and all that they could do was to shovel him into a gunnysack and bury him in the little burial plot.

A few days after the Lattimers had buried Wild Bill, Emmett Boyle, who was then the State Engineer, drove up to the ranch in the evening on his way from Reno to Vegas. He saw Belle in the lower part of the ranch tossing some good sized hogs back into the pen from which they had escaped. When she seemed to have finished this duty he asked her if he might have some supper and a bed for the night.

She invited him to stay with them for the night so they went up to the house. While she was preparing the meal he noticed she kept gong to the window to sniff the evening air. Finally, Emmett asked what the trouble was and she promptly answered, ‘Them damn dogs has dug up Wild Bill again.’

Post Script:  Coachie spent three years in the Carson City prison and after his release, lived a peaceful life.

Let’s finish off with this GE pano shot (by Hobgot) of the mountains just south of Indian Springs:

That’ll do it . . .




© 2017 A Landing A Day


One Response to “Indian Springs and Mercury, Nevada”

  1. Cheryl said

    A nice piece of research for post Fourth of July relaxation! Such interesting stories of the western desert. Nice job, Greg.

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