Bikini Atoll 50 Years Later

Posted on April 14, 2008  Comments (0)

Nuked coral reef bounces back

Three islands of Bikini Atoll were vapourised by the Bravo hydrogen bomb in 1954, which shook islands 200 kilometres away. Instead of finding a bare underwater moonscape, ecologists who have dived it have given the 2-kilometre-wide crater a clean bill of health.

“It was fascinating – I’ve never seen corals growing like trees outside of the Marshall Islands,” says Zoe Richards of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Australia. Richards and colleagues report a thriving ecosystem of 183 species of coral, some of which were 8 metres high. They estimate that the diversity of species represents about 65% of what was present before the atomic tests. The ecologists think the nearby Rongelap Atoll is seeding the Bikini Atoll, and the lack of human disturbance is helping its recovery.

“When I put the Geiger counter near a coconut, which accumulates radioactive material from the soil, it went berserk,” says Beger.

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