Bikini Island is the northeasternmost and largest island of Bikini Atoll. It is the best-known and most important island of the atoll, and measures about four kilometres.
Bikini Island is well-known for being the subject of nuclear bomb tests, and because the bikini swimsuit was named after the island in 1946. The two piece swimsuit was introduced within days of the first nuclear test on the atoll, and the name of the island was in the news.
The Micronesian inhabitants of the Bikini Atoll, who numbered about 200 before the United States relocated them after World War Two, ate fish, shellfish, bananas, and coconuts.
In February of 1946 the military governor of the Marshalls, travelled to Bikini. On a Sunday after church, he assembled the Bikinians to ask if they would be willing to leave their atoll temporarily so that the United States could begin testing atomic bombs for "the good of mankind and to end all world wars."
The leader of the 167 Bikinian people, stood up after much confused and sorrowful deliberation among his people, and announced, "We will go believing that everything is in the hands of God."
In 1946 the Bikinians were moved to a single island named Kili as part of their temporary homestead. The Administration left the Bikinians food stores sufficient only for several weeks.
The islanders soon discovered that the coconut trees and other local food crops produced very few fruits when compared to the trees on Bikini. As the food supply quickly ran out, the Bikinians began to suffer from starvation and fish poisoning because of the lack of edible fish.
Between 1946 and 1958, twenty-three nuclear devices were detonated at Bikini Atoll.
The 1954 detonation codenamed Castle Bravo was the first test of a practical hydrogen bomb. The largest nuclear explosion ever set off by the United States, it was much more powerful than predicted, and created widespread radioactive contamination.
Early in the morning on March 1, the hydrogen bomb was detonated on the surface of the reef in the northwestern corner of Bikini Atoll.
The area was illuminated by a huge and expanding flash of blinding light. Millions of tons of sand, coral, plant and sea life from Bikini's reef, from three islands and the surrounding lagoon waters were sent high into the air by the blast.
On Rongelap Atoll (located about 125 miles east of Bikini), three to four hours after the blast, white, snow-like ash began to fall from the sky onto the 64 people living there and also onto the 18 people residing on Ailinginae Atoll.
The Rongelapese, not understanding what was happening, watched as two suns rose that morning, observed with amazement as the radioactive dust soon formed a layer on their island two inches deep turning the drinking water a brackish yellow.
Children played in the fallout; their mothers watched in horror as night came and they began to show the physical signs of exposure. The people experienced severe vomiting and diarrhea, their hair began to fall out, the island fell into a state of terrified panic.
In 1968 the United States declared Bikini habitable and started bringing a small group of Bikinians back to their homes in the early 1970s as a test.
In 1978, however, the islanders were removed again after a French team of scientists did additional tests on the island and discovered strontium 90 in their bodies had reached dangerous levels.
It was not uncommon for women to experience faulty pregnancies, miscarriages, stillbirths and damage to their offspring as a result of the nuclear testing on Bikini.
The United States provided $150 million as a settlement for damages caused by the nuclear testing program.
A clean-up operation scraped off the top 16 inches of soil from the main island of Bikini, generating a million cubic feet of radioactive dirt that could not be disposed of, at a cost that far exceeds this compensation award.
To this day the Bikini islanders remain on the island of Kili and receive compensation from the United States for their survival.