Bikini Atoll is an example of a tropical paradise-come-fire-and-brimstone apocalypse. It is a coral reef in the Marshall Islands made up of 23 islands that surround a large central lagoon. After WW2 all of the atoll's population were forcibly relocated in 1946 to make way for a nuclear testing site for the United States.

Between 1946 and 1958 Bikini Atoll was subjected to 23 nuclear tests by the United States. And here is to be found the sunken American nuclear fleet. Another stunning lagoon to see a ship graveyard is in Truk (Chuuk) Lagoon in Micronesia.


Bikini Atoll & Resettlement of The Population

The name "Bikini" is from the Marshallese name "pikinni" meaning "coconut place." One fun fact is that the usage of the word "bikini" for women's low-waisted two-piece bathing suits comes from this site.

It was coined in 1948 by the French who named their new bathing fashion garments for the "explosive" effect created by the sexy attire.

  • Number of Tests: 23 Nuclear Tests
  • Used: From 1946 to 1958
  • Population: Forcibly Removed

The American authorities had promised the Bikini Atoll's residents they would be able to return home after they were done nuking their home. Most of the islanders agreed to leave and moved to Rogerik Atoll and then Kili Island. But both of these new islands were unable to sustain them forcing the government to keep giving them aid.

After the end of the nuclear tests, three families were resettled on Bikini Island in 1970 (about 100 residents). But dangerously high levels of contamination were found in the well water and they were evacuated again in 1980.

In the end, the United States paid the islands and their descendants $125 million in compensation.

Related: These Are The Most Easily Accessible Shipwrecks In The World For Divers

Nuclear Testing and The Sunken Nuclear Fleet

The nuclear testing was to the backdrop of the early stages of the Cold War nuclear arms race between the USSR and the United States.

The nuclear tests were carried out at 7 test sites on the reef itself, in the air, on the sea, and underwater.

The Navy wanted to know the effect of a nuclear weapon on ships. They wanted to see if ships could be space at sea and in ports in such a way to make nuclear weapons ineffective against ships.

The Navy designated Bikini Atoll lagoon as a ship graveyard. It had masses of old WW2 ships not needed anymore. They brought in 95 ships - a fleet that would have been the six-largest in the world had it been active. They were carrying various amounts of live ordnance and fuel and then blew them up with nukes.

The fleet included carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines, attack transports, and landing ships (even the iconic USS CV-3 Saratoga that had survived the whole war).

Today the islands remain deserted except for a handful of caretakers and a few divers and tours.

  • Designed: It Is Designed as A UNESCO World Heritage Site (Since 2010)

Time has now passed and with modern technology, the risks of radiation have significantly lessened. Today expert divers are able to explore this stunning lagoon.

Related: Where Ships Go To Die: The Massive Gadani Ship Breaking Yard

Dive The Sunen Nuclear Fleet With Indies Trader

Today the Indies Trader is the longest-running and (according to their website) the most technically safe provider offering dive tours on the nuclear fleet at Bikini Atoll. They offer trips from Kwajalein Atoll to Bikini between May and October.

  • Season: Between May and October

They use top-of-the-line equipment and expert knowledge of the area to ensure the experience is safe. Their tours are tailored to highly experienced divers - not for entry-level divers.

  • Beginner Divers: These Dives are Not Suitable For Entry-Level Divers
  • Starting Point: Kwajalein (Fly To Kwajalein With United through Honolulu)

One of the best things about diving the wrecks in the Bikini Lagoon is that divers are able to get up close and personal with these relatively untouched shipwrecked vessels.

  • Dive: The German Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen and The Sunken Nuclear Fleet

Diving tours start with wreck diving in Kwajalein before heading to an iconically idyllic post-apocalypse of the atolls of Rongelap and Rongerick. At Bikini, one will wreck dive the nuclear fleet and dive one's way back to Kwajalein.

  • Limit: Only 10 Divers per Trip (And Only A Handful of Trips Per Year)
  • Exclusive: Less Than 80 Divers Get To Dive The Nuclear Fleet At Bikini Atoll Every Year
  • Caution: This is Extremely Remote And It Is Difficult To Get Emergency Medical Care - That's Why It Is Only For The Most Experienced Divers

There are no prices listed on their website. One should poke around their website and then send a query. There is also a $5,000 Bikini Dive Fee and insurance is not included.

  • Duration: 13 Nights Aboard
  • Included: All Meals, Food, Beer, and more

Another remote place to see scores of old destroyed and abandoned military equipment is in the tropical paradise Solomon Islands.

Next: 20 Of The Most Over-The-Top Underwater Shipwrecks To See Around The World