The haute beachwear well-known as the bikini was named after a cable of islands turned into a nuclear wasteland by atom bomb testing.

You are watching: Bikini tests of the atomic bomb


The Bikini Atoll—a collection of limestone formations in the Pacific ocean that comprise component of the Marshall Islands—is, or fairly was, a dry paradise. Between 1946 and also 1958, the united States armed forces detonated numerous nuclear bombs in the area, wiping out plants and also wildlife, and leaving behind a toxic wasteland. That tumultuous background is now kept in haunting photos, diaries, papers and studies, assembled through the college of Washington right into the Lauren L. Donaldson arsenal of north Pacific s Radiological Surveys. This photos and documents are now complimentary to browser on

The colonial history of the Bikini Atoll and the Marshall archipelago is somewhat much shorter than many other dry nations. The first Christian missionaries arrived at the islands in 1857, the German traders in the 1860s, and the Japanese in 1914. Yet, up till the 1940s, the Bikinians remained relatively isolated. That changed in 1945, once the USA took over and designated the Marshall Islands for nuclear testing. The atoll occupants were required to move.

As shortly as the archipelago emerged and became habitable—around 3,500 years ago—humans began settling them. The explosions take it minutes to damage them.

On march 7, 1946, the 167 Bikinians life on the atoll put flowers on their ancestors’ graves, bade them farewell, and also left their homeland because that good. They were at first relocated come the Rongerik Atoll, which they thought to be lived in by evil spirits; after much hardship they were relocated when again come the Kwajalein Atoll and also later come the Kili Island. Top top 1 July 1946, over 42,000 US armed forces personnel and also civilians top top 242 navy ships, 156 planes and also with 25,000 radiation recording tools watched the an initial Bikini Atoll nuclear test. Earlier then it was grandiosely described as a “terrifying pillar of water topped by an unfolding flower of mist and radioactive debris.” about 5,400 speculative rats, goats, and pigs were lugged along to examine as component of the test program.

Ralph F. Palumbo collecting birds specimens indigenous the bottom of Bikini Lagoon, summer 1964 via

Four job after the early stage test, Micheline Bernardini, a dancer native the Casino de Paris sported le bikini in ~ the city’s windy pool—a G-string v newspaper print. The name conveniently made it into the fashion lexicon, in spite of the damages done come its namesake island chain.

More explosions adhered to the very first ones in 1946. Exploding bombs chewed out substantial craters in the coral reefs—craters an ext than a mile in diameter. Eventually, in march 1954 the US army dropped the world’s very first hydrogen bomb from a plane, which decimated three of the Bikini islands, creating a crater that measured 2 kilometers large and 80 meter deep. Constructed over millions of years by living coral organisms the grew approximately the basalt core, the islands comprised a facility ecosystem the took a really long time to form. As quickly as the archipelago emerged and became habitable—around 3,500 year ago—humans started settling them. The explosions take it minutes to destroy them.

Coconut crab being monitored by geiger counter, Bikini Island, august 18, 1964 via

While the physical devastation was basic to see, the long-lasting radioactive damage would take years to observe. Years after the explosions, scientists continued studying the radiation effects on the atoll’s flora and also fauna. Castle combed the atoll’s beaches for rats, crabs, and birds. Lock noticed the the giant Tridacna clams were gone native the area they occupied before. They recorded a variety of findings over time—a probably mutated arrowroot plant and also abnormally cultivation morning glory flowers, which they contrasted to the typically growing ones. The team also took surveys and also documented radiation levels approximately the islands and also in the marine wildlife, through a variety of photographs in the college of Washington collection showing scientists acquisition radiation readings from coconut crabs, and holding Geiger tools to the creatures fished out from the sea. The photos of this arsenal are absurd—in one shot that looks favor a scientist is interviewing a crab—and tragic.

Native women and also children v guitar, Likiep Atoll, respectable 20, 1949 via

Reclamation and also clean-up steps followed, and also in 1968 President lindon Johnson promised 540 Bikinians living on Kili and also other islands the they would be able to return come their genealogical home. But 10 year later, 139 repatriated Bikinians had actually to it is in evacuated native the atoll as soon as tests confirmed that they had actually high radiation level in your bodies. In 2016, a group of Columbia college researchers still understood the Bikini Atoll’s radiation levels too high over the security standards for occupants to return.

While the remainder of the Marshall Islands connected in nuclear testing have been ultimately deemed habitable, the Bikini Atoll alone was not. And that maybe is the biggest irony in the islands’ colonial history. The word Bikini equates from its original Marshallese “Pikinni” together “the lands of many coconuts” whereby Pik method “surface” and Ni stands for “coconut.” The image of the countless palm tree rising against the backdrop of the tropic sun setting into the azure waters is a perfect snapshot of pristine nature and utmost peace—the really antithesis the what the Bikini Atoll became.

See more: Can You Overdose On Vitamin K Toxicity? Can You Overdose On Vitamins

Browse the photos, diaries, papers and studies in the Lauren L. Donaldson arsenal of northern Pacific s Radiological Surveys for totally free on