Stunning Seabed Maps Reveals The Scars Of Nuclear Tests At Bikini Atoll


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist


The notorious Nuclear weapon test Bravo ) on Bikini Atoll. United States Department of Energy 

In the early days of the Cold War, the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands was pummelled with 22 of the US's newly developed nuclear bombs.

Even today, some seven decades on, the scars of this unimaginable power and destruction can still be seen in the geology of the seafloor.


A team of oceanographers, geologists, and marine archaeologists have recently turned their expertise towards the Bikini Atoll coral reef and carried out a comprehensive acoustic survey of the former nuclear bomb test sites. 

Presenting their findings at the American Geophysical Union meeting this week, their work has revealed the craters and deep pits left by the dentition of various nuclear bombs, along with the dozens of shipwrecks that fought in the Second War World’s Pacific theatre and were sunk during post-war atomic tests.  

Sunken warships and atomic bomb craters on the seabed of Bikini Atoll. CSHEL UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE

"Bikini was chosen because of its idyllic remoteness and its large, easily accessible lagoon," survey team-leader Dr Art Trembanis from the University of Delaware told reporters at the AGU meeting, according to BBC News.

"At the time, Bob Hope quipped, 'as soon as the war ended, we found the one spot on Earth that had been untouched by the war and blew it to hell'."


The Bikini Atoll might have been chosen as the target for the atomic tests because of its remoteness, but many of the other nearby Marshall Islands were inhabited at the time. As a result, US authorities forced hundreds of Micronesian inhabitants of the atoll to “temporarily relocate,” although parts of the Marshall Islands are still more radioactive than Chernobyl and over 660 islanders were irradiated.

As is clear when you look at the geophysical surveys of the area, these bombs packed a punch. The mapping focused on the Able and Baker tests of Operation Crossroads in 1946, as well as Castle Bravo and Castle Romeo in 1954.

Their survey revealed the remains of USS Saratoga. a US Navy ship that sunk by atomic bomb test, 25 July 1946. ARTHUR TREMBANIS

One of the most distinctive craters was left by the Baker test. The 21-kiloton bomb, known as Helen of Bikini, was detonated 27 meters (90 feet) beneath the surface of the water. Its blast carved out an 8 meter (26 foot) deep crater with a diameter of around 700 meters (2,296 feet). 

"It seems as if Captain Marvel herself has punched the planet and put a dent into it," Dr Trembanis said, speaking to the BBC.  


The results of the US' largest nuclear detonation, Castle Bravo, also left its mark. This 15-megaton hydrogen fusion bomb test managed to disintegrate three islands, leaving behind a crater some 1,400 meters (4,593 foot) in diameter and approximately 25 to 30 meters (82 to 98 foot) deep.

Unfortunately, the test site wasn't as remote as the US thought. A Japanese fishing boat was in the vicinity of Bikini Atoll when the US carried out the Castle Bravo test. The detonation was twice as powerful as they had predicted, so traveled further, and the Japanese fishers all got blasted with radioactive ash, eventually suffering acute radiation syndrome. It was this event that inspired the creation of Godzilla by the Japanese in response (which puts a whole new perspective on Hollywood's constant remakes of the films.)

The crater left from Castle Bravo.  ARTHUR TREMBANIS


  • tag
  • war,

  • nuclear,

  • atomic bomb,

  • cold war,

  • nuclear war,

  • bikini atoll,

  • marshall islands,

  • geophysical survey