Bikini Atoll

Overview

Introduction

This pleasant-sounding atoll was an early testing ground for nuclear bombs. In 1946, the original 450 inhabitants of the island were moved to a series of islands (ending up on Kili Island) and given assurances by the U.S. government that they could return to Bikini after the tests. Twenty-three nuclear detonations took place on Bikini, and after some minor cleaning up, the atoll was declared safe for habitation in 1969. One hundred of the original inhabitants moved back in 1974 but had to be evacuated again in 1978. (A multimillion-dollar cleanup is still under way.)

Bikini Lagoon opened to diving expeditions in the 1990s. Sea life rejuvenated more quickly than expected: Because the lagoon was closed to fishing for so many years, the numbers and variety of fish are spectacular. There are plenty of sunken ships to see as well. Most of the wrecks at the bottom of the lagoon were sunk during the nuclear tests conducted on the island. The flagship of this fallout fleet is the USS Saratoga, one of the few diveable aircraft carriers in the world. Other noteworthy wrecks include a pair of submarines, the Pilotfish and the Apogon, and the Japanese battleship Nagato, which led the attack on Pearl Harbor. It should be noted, however, that all of the main wrecks in Bikini Lagoon lie below 120 ft/35 m, and some are as deep as 200 ft/60 m. Only experienced deep divers should attempt to view these wrecks. There is a site called shark pass that has hundreds of sharks, although illegal fishing wiped out a number of them in 2004. 500 mi/800 km northwest of Majuro.

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