Downey Duck Bikini Atoll 2007

It's October '07 and we just returned from our third visit to Bikini Atoll; this trip we stayed a total of four weeks, three on purpose and one week stranded. Jim Akroyd has been head divemaster each time; his wife, Gen, Rich, and Edward were the other divemasters, with Ronnie also acting as divemaster when needed. The entire Bikini crew is outstanding. The operation, operated through the Bikini government, is still run amazingly well considering how far off the beaten path Bikini is, which we really realized this trip.

The air conditioned rooms are basic but comfortable, and the food is basic but filling. The dining hall is also air conditioned, as well as the briefing room and small movie theater.

Two dives are done each day, as long as the planes are flying (for potential rescue in case of an accident), with bottom times of 25-40 minutes and total run-times including decompression ranging from 60-80 minutes, depending on your personal safety level. Each additional minute of bottom time can add another 6-8 minutes of deco time, so it is important to pay attention to the dive plan. Depths ranged from 105 feet on the deck of the Saratoga to 180 feet. Air is used during the dive until ascending to the 30 foot hang bar, where the switch to 79% Nitrox is made. Twin tanks or large singles can be used; either will get you the same profile as long as your air consumption is good.

There are seven WWII wrecks that are regularly dived: Saratoga, Nagato, Carlisle, Lamson, Apagon, Anderson, and the Arkansas, all sunk during the Able or Baker atomic bomb tests held at Bikini in 1946. Boat rides are no more than 20 minutes.

There are some rules that are enforced by the Bikini and Marshall Islands that may disappoint divers used to doing whatever they want in other locations. There is no unescorted diving, especially penetrations, no single tank penetrations, and absolutely no taking of souvenirs; you are welcome to handle and admire everything, however.

Air Marshall flies “usually every Wednesday” from Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, to Bikini. They were having more financial and equipment problems than usual since August, meaning late arrivals and/or departures for some, or even no departure at all. One group a couple weeks before we arrived had to leave by boat, and since the planes weren’t flying, were unable to dive any of the five extra days they were on the island. We arrived on time, but were stranded on the island for an extra week. The boat was unavailable, but eventually a plane was sent from the Gilbert Islands, at great expense to the dive operation and Air Marshall. We sat at the Bikini airport twice waiting for planes that did not come. One group trying to get into Bikini couldn’t—some of them went home and the rest spent a few days doing land-based diving on Chuuk—nice, but not what they had in mind.

Bikini is a phenomenal place to dive and it’s easy to get to until Air Marshall takes over. We highly recommend you don’t have anything critical planned for at least one week after your planned departure. When we left, the future of Bikini diving and Air Marshall were both in doubt. Hopefully both will weather the problems, because we would certainly go back again!