Friday, July 13, 2007

Bikini Atoll Report

Eleven dive addicts trekked halfway around the world to see what only a handful of divers get to experience- the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Bikini has had an interesting history. Her original inhabitants were asked to relocated "for the good of mankind" by the US government so that nuclear tests could be carried out. World War II was over and the US took 73 ships out to Bikini to see how they would survive nuclear blasts. A series of 23 tests were carried out over the islands. The ships that we were diving on were destroyed during Operation Crossroads, which consisted of two impressive blasts; the Able and the Baker blast.

An average dive consisted of 30 minutes of bottom time between 130-180 feet and a decompression time of 50 minutes. It was all wreck diving and all of the ships etc were active during World War II. We did two dives a day for a total of 12 dives. The beach was amazing, the facilities good and the dive team was wonderful.

The USS Saratoga CV-3 is a masterful ship and the first aircraft carrier ever built in the US. Her impressive history and awe-inspiring presence made for incredible diving. Staring up at her bow from below is a humbling experience. We got to do several penetrations and swim through her living quarters. We saw three of her aircraft lying around the ship. The hangar has recently collapsed. These ships are literally disappearing before our eyes.

The notorious flagship of the Japanese Imperial Navy, the HIJMS Nagato, was a truly amazing series of dives. As we descended on the ship we could feel the eerie presence and personality of the ship. We were touching a piece of history hidden to the majority of the world, we were "waking a sleeping giant." We could almost hear Admiral Yamamoto launching the attack on Pearl Harbor. The enormous guns and propellers defied imagination. As we swam through the remains of the bridge you could almost hear the infamous call sign "Tora Tora Tora." We were able to penetrate the sea plane hangar, living quarters, and other sections of the ship in a series of three dives.

Besides the Saratoga and Nagato we dove the Lambson, Carlisle, Arkansas, Anderson, and the Apagon Submarine. Each of the wrecks is littered with treasure you don't often see on wreck dives. Dishes, coke bottles, dive helmets, torpedoes, a bugle, and artillery shell of every kind are everywhere you look.

On the Anderson DD-411 we saw the tiny ladder leading up the side of the ship where over a thousand sailors found their salvation from drowning during every major World War Two battle. Each diver took a moment to climb the rungs and take in the emotions that those war-torn young men must have felt as they climbed to safety.
In what other trip could you dive several aircrafts, an aircraft carrier, a submarine, a Japanese battle ship, and American destroyers? This trip was the experience of a lifetime.


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