Granite Springs Valley

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Granite Springs Valley is east of Winnemucca Lake.

External Resources

Giant Circles

The Ragged Top Mountain SW 1:24k topo showing two of the semicircles

Topo maps of Granite Springs Valley show large semicircles that are centered around a ruin. 9 semicircles have been identified, the largest has a radius of 15 miles.

Nuclear Test

Initially, it is not clear why the circles exist. In April, 2012, there was a thread on the Wreckchasing message board that put forth the theory that as part of Operation Plowshare, there was to be a nuclear test at this location in southern Pershing County. The theory is that the circles would be part of the arc array where 4 foot square sheets where covered with petrolatum so that fallout could be measured.

However, there are no references Project Gondola or any other nuclear or non-nuclear test associated with Operation Plowshare in this area.

Below are points in rough order of significance with the most significant points first.

  • Project Gondola and Project Phaeton both mention the Black Rock Desert, but neither project had field work other than visits. There are concrete ruins in the center of the circles and the circles themselves would have taken quite a bit of effort.
  • Project Gondola was to be at the Black Rock Desert near the Humboldt-Pershing county line. The center of the circles is at the In Pershing County north of the Churchill-Pershing county line, which is on the opposite edge of Pershing County from Humboldt County.
  • One positive point for these circles being for Project Gondola is that Project Gondola was to be about cratering in deep clay, which does exists at the center of the circles, see the well log for the Telephone Well below.
  • Project Phaeton does mention the Black Rock Desert, but no work was done. Note that the Black Rock Desert is roughly 70 miles by road from this location. Traditionally, this area is not part of the Black Rock Desert.
  • The state of Nevada does not have a well log for this location, though they do have a well log for nearby Telephone Well, drilled in the 1940s.
  • The amount of concrete in the picture is not really in keeping with a well site. Pouring a slab and a retaining wall for a well is unusual. It would be good to look at the Nevada Test Site photos and see how much concrete was poured for Sedan.
  • The diameters of the circles don't match the diameter on the NTS. It would be good to check the diameters of the circles at Edwards AFB.

Aerojet, Lovelock

After looking at the photos and maps, it appears that this is an Aerojet Corp. test site.

The key insight was that the diameters of the circles did not match the diameters in the citation from the Nevada Test Site, which indicates that perhaps it had a different use, such as for rockets. Searching the web for various terms eventually resulted in a search for "site:newspaperarchive.com rocket lovelock", which brought up

  • Nevada State Journal, "Aerojet Eyes Lovelock Test Site," Sunday, July 22, 1962, Page 27
    • The Aerojet Corp. announced this week that it will build a small rocket research facility near Lovelock. The location is adjacent to the Sahwave Naval Gunnery Range, 25 miles northwest? of Lovelock and 12 miles north of Brady Hot Springs. The new location will do research on small rocket motors using advanced solid propellants. The land was leased from the Santa Fe Corporation and a private rancher.
  • The Deseret News, "New Nevada Plant," July 17, 1962. The Aerojet Corporation will build a facility located adjacent to the Sahwave Naval Gunnery Range about 25 miles southwest of Lovelock.

The Pershing County Assessor has a map that has a road name as "Arrow Jet Rd." that leads to the location, see the lower left of [1]. Arrow Jet Rd. is some sort of version of Aerojet Rd.

Searching for "Lovelock Aerojet" yields various hits, below in chronological order.

  • David Loomis, "Combat Zoning," p. 23 writes that Pershing County objected to the Black Rock Desert Gunnery Range being restricted because it would limit access for the proposed Aerojet solid fuel plant. This plant was expected to give a boost to the economy.
  • Ebony Magazine, "Rocket Test Team Boss," May, 1964. An article about Willis Sprattling, who supervised "Aerojet's highly experimental site test site at Lovelock, NV."
  • Reno Evening Gazette, "Work Planned at Lovelock by Aerojet," p. 16, February 15, 1965. Aerojet received a contract and propellant processing will begin and continue through August at Lovelock. 18 people will be employed. A new propellant mixer and a "new thrust stand in static test firing of solid rocket motors" will be built.
  • Nevada State Journal, "Aerojet, Desert Research Institute Joint Weather Project Stirs Interest," March 12, 1967. Lovelock is the home of a much more modest project where Aerojet has a large piece of property, but no permanent staff.
  • Dilts, R. L. ; Robinson, L. H. ; Ghilarducci, H. E., "Toxic Exhaust Cloud Diffusion Study," May 1967. Corporate Author: Aerojet-General Corp, Sacramento, CA. | PDF
    • Abstract : A field study of exhaust cloud diffusion from solid rocket motors was conducted at the Aerojet-General Lovelock, Nevada facility. The primary objective of the program was to attempt to correlate the diffusion of puff-type rocket motor exhaust clouds with measurable meteorological variables under stable atmospheric conditions. Two sets of field data were collected from 413 air samplers used during the static tests of rocket motors containing a nominal 2100 lb of propellant. The difference in the values of the predicted versus the measured exposure data is discussed and a generalized estimation procedure is presented. The results from this exposure data were much lower than anticipated and indicate a significant mass loss. The most probable explanation is that the exhaust clouds penetrated the shallow inversions defined by the upper air temperature profiles. Consequently, a large percentage of the tracer particles could not penetrate the bottom lid of the inversion to return to the ground as the clouds diffused. This explains the mass loss although particle deposition could also be involved. Since the study was limited to two sets of field data, specific correlations of exhaust cloud diffusion with measurable meteorological variables could not be attempted.
Fig. 2: Air Sampling Grid Layout
Fig. 3 Aerial View Sampling Grid.png
Fig. 4: Air Sampler Stations
Fig. 5: Meteorlogical Tower
Fig. 6: Test Motor Setup
Fig. 7: Air Sampler Setup
  • Nevada State Journal, "Lovelock Test Site May Reopen," p. 13, November 11, 1969. Aerojet announced that it anticipated getting a contract that would "necessitate re-activation" of the Lovelock test site. An Aerojet spokesman was quoted: "As activities increase for the operation of our test site, some equipment now surplus for our needs at Lovelock will be removed to Aerojet's facilities in Sacramento." The article states that the site, used for testing engines and fuel is 34(?) miles for Lovelock and has been "inactive for several years."

Giant Circle References

  • Giant concentric circles Granite Springs Valley, NV (smugmug) Google Maps 40° 00’ 46.7” N 119° 00’ 05.4” W
    • 2002 Photos Scroll down to "Granite Springs Valley - Ruins"
    • The Blue Wing Spring and Ragged Top SW maps indicate that this is in T25 R26 S 24, S25 & T25 R27 S19, S30. The Pershing County Assessor shows that this is a checkerboard of BLM and former Santa Fe land, now owned by a holding company
    • 003-281-34 BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT T25 R26 SEC 24
    • 003-281-54 KUMIVA GROUP LLC T25 R26 SEC 25
    • 003-271-47 KUMIVA GROUP LLC T25 R27 SEC 19
    • 003-271-48 BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT T25 R27 SEC 30
  • The State of Nevada Well Log Database Query Tool has no mention of wells drilled in those sections.
  • Mystery Giant concentric circles Granite Springs Valley, NV (Pace Aero Press)
    • Matt Hensarling posted that this was the Copper Valley Nuclear Test that was cancelled because of fears of creating "fault slippage" that would result in earthquakes.
    • Craig posted that it was something to do with Project Gondola, which was part of Operation Plowshare. Project Gondola was cancelled after there were problems with Project Faultless.
    • Xelex posted "The Granite Springs Valley circles appear to be an arc array to collect particulate samples using 4-foot-square, petrolatum-coated aluminum sheets distributed in a pattern downwind of a detonation point. Similar features can be found at Tonopah Test Range, site of Project Roller Coaster that included four plutonium dispersal tests (Double Tracks, and Clean Slate I, II, and III). There is another arc array southeast of Leuhman Ridge at the Edwards AFB rocket engine test site."
    • Xelex continues: "Arc arrays are typically used for collecting fallout samples from surface (or shallow subsurface) bursts. If the Plowshare shot Gondola was to be an excavation test, it would make sense to collect fallout data."

Project Gondola

  • Not to be confused with Pre-Gondola
  • Scott Kaufman, "Project Plowshare: The Peaceful Use of Nuclear Explosives in Cold War America," p. 225. Not available in Google Books, but Amazon has the text. The conclusion mentions Project Gondola and states that it got its name from a form of transportation.
  • Scott Kaufman, "Proving Grounds: Project Plowshare and the Unrealized Dream of Nuclear Earth Moving," (2005) p. 188. Discussion about July 1968 fourth annual report of the Canal Commission: "Project Gondola, a cratering experiment to be conducted in wet clay (at a site as yet to be undetermined), would be particularly germane to the soil conditions in Panama's Chucunaque valley, where field studies has left Army Corps engineers increasingly concerned about the problem of slope stability".
  • Colleen M. Beck, Susan R. Edwards, and Maureen L. King, "The Off-Site Plowshare and Vela Uniform Programs: Assessing Potential Environmental Liabilities through an Examination of Proposed Nuclear Projects,High Explosive Experiments, and High Explosive Construction Activities Volume 3 of 3,"
    • p A-59 In 1969, a nuclear cratering experiment in wet clay shale was in the planning stages. One of the four sites under consideration was the Black Rock Desert. "In February, 1969, just as the preliminary drilling program was getting under way at the four sites, the project was put on hold due to funding constraints with the expectation that it would resume in FY 1970 with field data available by late August 1969. However, the project did not resume and a February 20, 1970 memo to the project participants terminated the associated committees and indefinitely deferred the project, effectively ending the Gondola Project. "The proposed Nevada site was in the Black Rock Desert, west of Winnemucca on the Humboldt-Pershing County lines." . "No field work was conducted". A press release from the Office of Public Affairs, US AEC, Nevada Operations office dated January 30, 1969 stated that exploratory drilling "was to begin within a few days". Drilling permits were obtained, but the field work was cancelled.
  • Billings Gazette, "Nuclear 'Bulldozer' May Get Try," 1969-01-30, p. 35. "and another on the Humboldt-Pershing County line in Nevada"
  • Reasons why this location is not Gondola.
    • The location in question is on the Pershing-Churchill county line, not the Humboldt-Pershing county line.
    • However, in Harrill (see above), Well T24N R26 12b (39.9405020, -119.0579708)is located 3.4 miles south of the center point of the circles, p. 9 "The deepest well in the area is at the southern end of Granite Springs Valley (24/26-12b)" p. 32 has the well log for 24/26-12b "Telephone well" and shows clay all the way down to 600'

Project Phaeton