SynopsisJuly 1946. Bikini. An Atoll of the Marshall Islands, somewhere in the vast blue of the Pacific Ocean, between the Philippines and Hawaii. A place that could hardly be more remote. But it was its remoteness from all Western civilization which doomed it for destruction, as it was for exactly this reason that the American forces chose it as the site of the first atomic explosions after Hiroshima.
A formidable fleet of discharged battleships was gathered in order to sink them all in the most spectacular way. Testing the destructive power of the bombs was not the only objective; they also wanted to make a big impression in the oncoming Cold War with the Soviet Union. During their “Operation Crossroads” in July 1946, they detonated two atomic bombs, sinking a ghost fleet of 84 battleships in the process. They were also destroying nature, life both above and under water. Parts of the huge atoll ring incurred long-term contamination. To this day, food needs to be imported to the islands. Attempts at resettling the inhabitants – who had been forcibly evacuated – were abandoned in the 1970ies. The remaining radiation of 23 atomic bombs that had been detonated on the Bikini Atoll up until 1958 was still much too high.
The armed forces have long since left the atoll. Nature was able to repair many of the man-made damages, although not all of them. To this day, the crater left by the hydrogen bomb Bravo in 1954 looks like a submarine moonscape, where new corals barely gain a foothold.
Yet other reefs in the formerno-go area had a chance to develop back to their former splendor, undisturbed for many decades. Even the sharks were safe from Asian fishing fleets. It would be difficult to find such a healthy shark population anywhere else, and they are known for their aggressiveness. A mutation brought about by the tests?
The fauna has re-conquered its realm. It has turned gigantic wrecks, like the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga or the Japanese battleship Nagato, into huge artificial reefs. Hideaways for countless fish, corals and other lower animals. The wrecks of the ghost fleet have by now become a veritable diver's dream spot.
The Bikini Atoll: 60 years after the first nuclear tests a paradise has come back to life. largely unexplored, it is precisely because those traces of the nuclear past still cast their shadow, that this place is like no other.