Kali Jerman Human Geography Art Marshall 15 December 2007 Marshall Islands: The Bikini Atoll The Marshall Islands are composed of twenty nine atolls and five islands. An atoll is a circular or oval shaped coal reef islands that encircle a shallow lagoon. It is located in the Pacific Ocean and is part of Micronesia (McGinley).
First discovered by Spanish in the 1600’s, the islands were mostly used for its natural resources, particularly copra oil found in coconuts. Despite these trade connections, the native Bikinians remained very isolated and did not maintain contact with the Spanish.Their lives were extremely interwoven and their social structure was tight knit. They had integrated extended families and complex traditions passed down from generation to generation. In the early 1900’s the Japanese began to govern Bikini. During World War II the Japanese were afraid of American invasion of the Marshall Islands. Therefore a watchtower was constructed on Bikini to guard against the Americans and it also served as an outpost for Japanese military headquarters who were stationed in the Kwajalein Atoll.
In early 1944, the Americans captured Kwajelein, and overtook Japanese control of the Marshall Islands (Radiological Conditions at Bikini Atoll and the Prospects of Resettlement). After WWII, American president Harry Truman issued a statement declaring that American warships, equipment, and material were in need of testing to determine the effects of nuclear substances. Because of Bikini Island’s isolation, it was chosen as the nuclear testing ground. In February 1946 Commodore Ben Wyatt, the military governor of the Marshall, traveled to Bikini to discuss temporary relocation with the 167 Bikinians.King Juda, leader of the Bikinians, reluctantly agreed. The Bikinians were relocated 125 miles east to Ronjerik Atoll. Ronjerik was uninhibited at the time because it is one sixth the size of Bikini, and believed to be unlivable.
Upon arrival the United States gave the Bikinian food stores for several months, however the fish proved to be inedible, and the trees did not produce enough fruit to live on. The Bikinians struggles to survive in their new environment with such a low amount of sustenance (Niedenthal). Operation Crossroads was the first set of tests to take place. It consisted of two detonations, each 21 kilotons.The first was ABLE detonated on July 1, 1946, and the second was BAKER, detonated July 25. A third CHARLIE, was canceled shortly after BAKER produced more radiation than expected (U. S.
Defense Nuclear Agency). The State of malnutrition was worsening on Ronjerik Island and after a United States health official visited the island, it was declared an insufficient food source to withstand a population. The Bikinians were set to be relocated again to Ujelang Atoll, which is a western Marshall island. However shortly before their move, Enewetak Atoll was selected as a second nuclear testing site.The inhabitants of this island, the Enewetaks, were slated to be moved to Ujelang instead of the Bikinians. The Bikinians were forced to remain on Ronjerik. Food supplies were provided to the people for the remainder of their time on the island (Radiological Conditions at Bikini Atoll and the Prospects of Resettlement).
After nearly two years of living on Ronjerik, the Bikinians were finally relocated to the Kwajalein Atoll. This move was temporary until the land on Kili Island could be cleared and housing could be built. After six months, Kili Island was prepared for inhabitance.The Bikinians settled on Kili but found the same problems as was on Ronjerik. Food supplies were low and fishing was impossible. Rations and emergency food drops were the only way the Bikinians could survive on their new island (Radiological Conditions at Bikini Atoll and the Prospects of Resettlement). While the Bikinians were settling on Kili Island, The United States was planning the detonation of a hydrogen bomb.
A 10. 4 megaton bomb, BRAVO, was detonated on November 1, 1952 at Enewatak. The bomb vaporized an entire island, and left a crater 175 feet deep.The fallout from this hydrogen bomb far exceeded the expectations of scientists. ON nearby Rongelap, inhabitants were coated in white fallout ash, and a two inch coating covered the land and water. Soon radioactive elemental exposure was seen in the people. They became violently ill and lost their hair.
They were taken to Kwajaleip for medical treatment by the United Sates and relocated to Ejit Island. Long term effects of radiation are still a serious concern for all who were exposed to radioactive fallout (Hamilton). On Bikini the radiation levels dramatically increased after BRAVO.The island was considered off limits until 1967, when the United States began considering moving the Bikinis back to their original home. Considerable testing was conducted in order to get an accurate reading of current radioactivity and it was determined the exposure present did not pose a significant health threat. Beginning in 1969, radioactive land and debris were cleared from Bikini, crops and vegetation were replanted, and housing was established over the course of eight years. During this time approximately 100 Bikinians moved to Bikini.
The remainder of the population refused to move back to there homeland in fear of high radiation levels (Radiological Conditions at Bikini Atoll and the Prospects of Resettlement). In April 1978, medical examinations of the Bikinians living on Bikini showed there radiation levels to have increased 11 times that of when they first moved, and that the levels were much higher than the maximum allowable levels in the United States. The people of Bikini were to be immediately removed from the island once again. Bikini remains uninhabited by natives to this day (“Blunder on Bikini Island”).The United States is currently responsible for paying reparations for the destruction of numerous islands in the Marshall Islands area totaling 94 million dollars. These funds include providing foot, administering medical services, cleanup of various contaminated islands, and construction and resettlement projects for natives. However this has been occurring for many years and is nowhere near complete.
The Bikinians are in favor of a 15 inch soil removal to ensure their safety, however scientists believe this would cause the island to become a windswept wasteland.Scientists prefer the method of spreading potassium on the topsoil which prevents the uptake of radioactive materials into plants. The Bikinians are not convinced however and a plan has yet to be made. Tentatively an agreement may be reached upon the basis of clearing the soil of the living region and spreading potassium on the uninhabited region (Niedenthal). The future of the Bikinians and their homeland is still uncertain. What we do know is that the Bikinians were wrongfully subject to the powers colonization which ultimately led to the destruction and demise of many of their native regions.In this region, government intervention has not been positive but has only had a negative impact on the culture, environment, and general well being of this group of people.
The welfare of a group of people was completely disregarded and the world continues to feel the repercussions of the nuclear bomb testing in the Marshall Islands.Works Cited “Blunder on Bikini Island”. Time Magazine April 3, 1978. New York, New York. Dec. 14, 2007. Hamilton, Terry.
“Radiological Conditions on Rongelap Atoll: Perspective on Resettlement of Rongelap Island”. Feb. 2003. 14 Dec. 2007. McGinley, Mark, J. Emmett Duffy.
“Atoll. ” In Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. Cutler J. Cleveland Washington, D. C. : Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment.
Encyclopedia of Earth March 7, 2007. December 16, 2007 Niedenthal, Jack. Homepage. Bikini Atoll. United States. 14 Dec. 2007.
“Radiological Conditions at Bikini Atoll and the Prospects of Resettlement”. International Atomic Energy Agency. Vienna, Austria 2003. Dec. 14, 2007. U. S.
Defense Nuclear Agency. “Operation Crossroads, 1946”. Washington: Defense Nuclear Agency, 1984. Dec 14, 2007.