Bikini Atoll – Marshall Islands - Atlas Obscura

Bikini Atoll

The birthplace of both the Atomic Age and Godzilla, and the namesake of the bathing suit. 


Bikini Atoll is a Micronesian Island chain located about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, and is what should be a heavenly place on Earth. However, its residents were forcibly relocated when the United States took possession of the islands in 1946, and over the next 12 years, the country sent 23 nuclear bombs raining down on this slice of paradise. 

From the air, Bikini is pristine and beautiful. The plant life has regrown unchecked since the explosions and is lush and green. Some visible remains of houses, towns, and graveyards give the illusion that civilization still exists on the land, in addition to a small research station maintained by the Department of Energy. The coral reefs have also been reborn and the large lagoon is inviting and clear. 

During the first practical test of a hydrogen bomb at Bikini, 23 members of a Japanese fishing boat crew that were supposedly at a safe distance were contaminated by the blast, and the scandal that rocked the nation was epic. It eventually became the inspiration for the movie Godzilla, in which a radioactive monster rises from an American nuclear test and attacks Japan. In 1968, the US prematurely deemed the islands safe, and let residents return to their homes. But contamination levels remained dangerous, and they had to be removed yet again. 

Under the clear lagoon, are the remains of nearly a dozen ships sunk during Operation Crossroads in 1946, and it’s possible and safe—though quite expensive—to visit and dive on the wrecks, including an aircraft carrier, a battleship. and more. The island itself is safe to visit as well, but avoid eating the coconuts.  


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