What Bikini Atoll Looks Like Today

Sixty years after the nuclear tests, the groundwater is contaminated and the coconuts are radioactive. But are the coral reefs thriving?

Stanford Magazine
Nov 20, 2017 · 9 min read

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MANICURED LANDSCAPE: Bikini Atoll is beautiful but eerie, say those who have been there. Palm trees are planted in rows, animals haven’t yet learned to be wary of humans, and giant radioactive coconut crabs scuttle about. (Photo: Dan Griffin)
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Photo: Bettman/Getty Images

‘It’s equivalent to 216 Empire State Buildings being blown into the sky. These tests are the most violent thing we’ve ever done to the ocean.’

A DISTANT PLACE

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EVOLVING ECOSYSTEM: Palumbi (above) and his research team will compare the genomes of coconut crabs and corals from Bikini Atoll with those from American Samoa to see what decades of radioactivity have wrought. (Photos: Dan Griffin)

‘The terrible history of Bikini Atoll is an ironic setting for research that might help people live longer. By understanding how corals could have recolonized the radiation-filled bomb craters, maybe we can discover something new about keeping DNA intact.’

PALM TREE SENTINELS

Planted in the ’60s as part of the atoll’s recovery, they stand in mechanically precise rows with the exactness of soldiers in formation, totally unlike the randomness of trees on a normal Pacific atoll.

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Stanford Magazine

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