Bikini Atoll – Marshall Islands - Atlas Obscura
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Marshall Islands

Bikini Atoll

The birthplace of Godzilla, where hazmat suits were once more appropriate than bikinis. 

Its name evokes beautiful women in tiny bathing suits on a tropical paradise in the water, and its location mirrors the sentiment. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

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 US sent 23 nuclear bombs raining down on this slice of paradise, rendering it uninhabitable to this day. 

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. The coral reefs have also been reborn and the large lagoon is inviting and clear. This island chain is hungry for tourists and has plenty of money-making potential. From the air, it hides its secrets well.

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 a US nuclear test and attacks Japan. Fans of the cult film could visit the origin of the classic if not for the deadly, invisible poisons contaminating both the land and sea.

Under the clear lagoon, the bones of many Navy vessels and ships rest, the area designated as a marine graveyard before the blasts. This location has been tempting diving expeditions for years, and is just another feature that tourists would flock to if safety allowed. In 1968, the US prematurely deemed the islands safe, and let residents return to their homes and rebuild their towns. The radiation levels and related chemical strains rose to dangerously unhealthy levels in their bloodstreams, and they had to be removed yet again.

To this day, the United States compensates the survivors and residents who will likely never be able to go home again, and the islands remain a paradise of staggering beauty and potential that no one can safely experience.




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