It was sometime after the Blizzard of 1996 in Boston that I escaped “cabin-fever” and went to go visit my friend Paul Adler. Paul was planning a trip to a place called Bikini Atoll. It was his excitement and enthusiasm that made me want to learn more about this remote place in the Marshall Islands.
Over the next few months I found articles in Aqua Corps and other diving magazines that talked about this place as possibly one of the most remote diving destinations for shipwreck divers that ever existed. I was hooked. However as a young man just getting established in those days a trip like this was well out of reach for me financially. As the years past I learned more about the ships that were involved with the Able and Baker tests. The aircraft carrier USS Saratoga and the Japanese battleship Nagato as well as close to 50 other historical ships, planes and submarines are there for divers to enjoy.
Two decades later I joined forces with Faith Ortins and Paul Holbrook while working with Diving Unlimited International. Faith and Paul had just started Blue Green Expeditions; it is and “Adventure Travel” company that specializes in “bucket-list” trips like Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland and Socorro Islands. Paul had secured the first charter to Bikini Atoll since 2008. Paul and Faith knew of my passion for Bikini and asked if I could help them as the trip leader.
Not only did this trip exceed my 20+ years of expectations but it had so much more than just wreck diving to do and learn about. I was well aware of the Nuclear testing that took place, but not about the historical significance that this site had to the rest of the world.
Our Liveaboard for the 10 days was the 123’ Truck Master which had traveled from Micronesia for our Bikini Atoll Expedition and four others. The seasoned crew from Truk was ready fo assist us with all of our technical gear and rebreathers. Bikini Atoll is a place that you will want to be at least Deco Procedures certified in open circuit before going. Most of our team was diving closed- circuit which was an ideal way to enjoy the wonder of Bikini. The crew was very accustomed to our specialized gear and took care to assist when needed.
The highlight of the trip for me was finding the “diving locker” and the USN dive Helmet that was proudly showing itself through the 60 years of rusty silt. Other noteworthy sites were the “Helldivers” peppered around the wreck and the Captains Quarters near the flight-deck. One surprise was that the flight-deck aft of the elevator had mostly collapsed on top of all of the planes that were inside.
Each day diving brought new perspective and new discoveries. Like swimming around the forward guns of the Nagato where Yamamoto gave the orders to attack Peal Harbor and the two rows of 500lb’ers next to an unexploded 55 gallon Depth-Charge on the Saratoga.
Like I said; Bikini does not disappoint and I can hardly wait to go back again. Now that I know the significant landmarks and camera configurations I want to go back just to soak more of it in and maybe even find a new site that has never been explored.
Robin Jacoway is the founder of Ocean Research Group, Inc. a company that specializes in technical diving with an emphasis on rebreather technology. Ocean Research Group endorses Blue Green Expeditions as its travel partner to help divers reach their goals and explore rarely seen remote locations.