We finally made it to Bikini, and it was awesome! We flew Continental to Majuro in the Marshall Islands, stopping overnight in Honolulu. After another overnight in Majuro, it was on to Bikini Atoll via Marshall Air. Bikini Atoll consists of 23 islands of various sizes; we landed on Eneu and then took a short boat ride to Bikini Island.
Bikini Island is a gorgeous 600 acre tropical island with white, sandy beaches and palm trees. Back in 1946, the 167 Bikinians were moved to another location so the United States could use their atoll to test the atomic bomb. They have not been able to move back to their home since then, due to safety and political issues. The diving infrastructure is much better than we expected, with backups for electricity and compressors, a huge kitchen and dining area, a small theater left behind by a film crew, and basic, but comfortable air-conditioned rooms. After our first lunch and a procedural briefing for the decompression dives in general and our first dive on the aircraft carrier Saratoga in particular, we rode in the back of the transfer truck to the dock and boarded the small landing craft.
Bill and I were the only two guests that week, and we were definitely spoiled. We did 5 dives on the Saratoga, including one interior dive, and never saw it all. The bridge is conveniently located around the 40' decompression stop. Other dives included the Anderson and the Lamson, both destroyers, the battleship Arkansas, the Japanese battleship Nagato, from which the order to bomb Pearl Harbor was given, the Carlisle, an attack cruiser, and the Apogon submarine. They were all fantastic, with many artifacts remaining.
The normal routine was breakfast at 7:00, briefing at 8:00, leave for the boat around 9:00, dive, lunch at noon, afternoon briefing at 1:00, dive, dinner at 6:00, movie after dinner, and then bedtime. It felt a bit like boot camp at first, especially since Jim was formally a sergeant in the British Army, but it kept us safe and on schedule. We were not allowed in the water before sunrise or after sunset, even off the beach in front of our room to snorkel, because the sharks are feeding and they can be aggressive. The food was plain, but there was plenty of it; peanut butter and jelly were always available, along with a 24/7 ice cream machine.
The diving was not as technical as we expected. We wore double steel 85 cu. ft. tanks, but single104 tanks were also available. The front of the boat was cranked down so it was easy to step in, and tanks were removed at the end of the dive and lifted into the boat by the dive staff. It is helpful to have experience with deep diving and decompression, but not essential as long as you follow the guidelines; everyone does the same dive profile as long as air consumption allows it. The water was warm, visibility was excellent and there was little, if any, current. We did short decompression stops at 80 feet, 40 feet, and 30 feet, plus what our computers dictated. Two computers are required, and two-gas computers are highly recommended; decompression at 30 feet and shallower is done on an interesting 3-tier decompression bar system with 75% oxygen-very nice, as it cuts decompression times almost in half. They have a few computers for rent on the island at a modest cost. Our deepest dive was about 170 feet; bottom times ran between 21 and 41 minutes, and total dive times were between an hour and an hour and 15 minutes. On many dives the local fish, sharks, and jellyfish entertained us during decompression.
The day before departure, we did one last dive on the Saratoga, rinsed our gear before lunch, and then had the afternoon off to relax or explore the island. Our week flew by-we're definitely going back!