Bikini Atoll is an atoll in the Micronesian Islands of the Pacific Ocean, part of Republic of the Marshall Islands.
It consists of twenty-three islands surrounding a deep central lagoon, at the northern end of the Ralik Chain northwest of Ailinginae Atoll and now universally significant to the world because it was admitted to the UNESCO list on 31st July 2010 with the justification that:
“Bikini Atoll has conserved direct tangible evidence … conveying the power of … nuclear tests, i.e. the sunken ships sent to the bottom of the lagoon by the tests in 1946 and the gigantic Bravo crater…. Through its history, the atoll symbolises the dawn of the nuclear age, despite its paradoxical image of peace and of earthly paradise.”
In 1954 the United States began serious nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean on the island of Bikini Atoll and they carried out the detonation of a massive bomb codenamed Castle Bravo, which was the first test of a practical hydrogen device by the United States.
Castle Bravo was also the most powerful nuclear bomb ever detonated by the United States, with a yield of fifteen Megatons (doesn’t sound a lot but, believe me, it is). That yield, far exceeding the expected yield of four to six megatons, combined with other factors, led to the most significant accidental radiological contamination ever caused by the United States. In terms of TNT tonnage equivalence, Castle Bravo was about one thousand, two hundred times more powerful than each of the atomic bombs which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
Nuclear testing was a big thing in the 1950s as Washington and Moscow prepared enthusiastically for wiping each other, and everyone else, off the face of the earth on the day of Armageddon. The fact that a major explosion even on the side of the world might have serious consequences for both sides and everyone else in between just didn’t seem to occur to them.
This event was important for two reasons, firstly it signified the state of tension in the world called the cold war that was around for the next thirty years or so but secondly and much more importantly it inspired the introduction of the bikini swimsuit and I’ve always been grateful for that. According to the official version a French engineer called Louis Réard and the fashion designer Jacques Heim invented the swimsuit that was a little more than a provocative brassiere front with a tiny g-string back. It was allegedly named after Bikini Atoll, the site of nuclear weapon tests on the reasoning that the burst of excitement it would cause on the beach or at the lido would be like a nuclear explosion.
Plenty of fallout and very hot!