The Bikini Atoll – Marshall Islands – 2018: Blog One


Usually I can post my trip blogs during my adventures but unfortunately others had priority access to posting trip information and I was not one with priority during this Mission.  However, I persevere, and will begin to provide you the blogs over the next week as I have returned safely to Reno and am now at a computer that can upload this  “Adventure”.  Sorry for not doing a better job of securing my access to internet but I think regardless, you will enjoy this series of Blogs.

Just as some perspective as to the difficulty of accessing the Bikini Atoll and accessing internet data for that matter, Dive One in the Bikini Atoll did not take place until 3pm on 26 July; 79 hours after leaving my home in Reno, Nevada (remember, I did cross the International Date Line); that is 3 days and 6 hours of travel simply to get to this remote place! I truly felt like the Indiana Jones character steaming along some mysterious ocean going wherever it was he was going!

After my flights and the transport of 400lbs/182kg of personal gear and $1000 in excess baggage and handling…

I arrived KWA – the, Kwajalien Atoll, Marshall Islands; as mentioned in the Pre-Trip Blog, a US Army Base.  Upon hitting the tarmac, we were escorted to a waiting area (cinderblock building, no A/C, chairs, lines on the floor where we lined up our carry-ons for dogs to sniff and sat waiting for the military to process onto the Atoll.  Once processed and with official badge in hand stating allowing us to leave the processing area, we walked to the baggage terminal, another very weather struck concrete building, and searched for our bags (and others of our team that were lost in Honolulu and found by myself luckily in lost baggage at HNL) which I have to say, my 6 were there!  Others not so fortunate.  We then hauled our bags out to a transport bus and then loaded ourselves into another; mind you it is 95f/35c degrees out and humid as $&%#!.  These transports took us about 1 mile to what I will call the “customs” building, which doubled as the ferry terminal, where we (I was joined by two fellow team members – Duncan and Richard Lewis) were met by our Expedition Leader, Aron Angrimsson, and another fellow team member Richard Lundgren.  Our bags were scanned, and we waited for the ferry to Ebeye, the only “town” on the Atoll of Kwajalien; our wait provided time for a burger and about 64 ounces of water; I even snuck in some peanut M&M’s!

In our conversations with Aron, we were informed that our ship was about a day late so instead of boarding the Truk Master upon arrival to Ebeye as expected, we would stay the night in Ebeye at the Hotel Ebeye.  Well I thought, “a great opportunity to get to see this little town.”  With our baggage in tow, we arrived at the hotel; interesting…think Motel 6, in the seediest part of any “hood” and, add rotting wood, mice, cock-roaches, mildew, chipped paint, you get the picture!  BUT…it was the only gig in town, so we got our room assignments and a key and stowed our luggage, took a shower (that was nice because the water seemed fairly clean) and I went for one of my walkabouts.

Returning 10 minutes later and after seeing the entire town, I realized my time would be better spent taking a nap in the somewhat airconditioned room and on highly suspect linens but what the hell, this is an adventure, right?

The next morning by 0730 we were aboard the Truk Master and the adventure began.

Once aboard, it was chaos in sorting out all the personal equipment; on an adventure like this where you will be living, diving, sleeping, eating on a boat with 20 others, you have to figure out how to efficiently stow gear and organize, something we were supposed to have the 25 hour boat ride to Bikini to do!  Nope, not this day.  Because the boat was late and all the divers wanted to dive, the plan was to do a dive, in the Kwajalein Atoll at about 1100hrs giving me about 2.5 hours to accomplish a modified version of my “mental” sorting out plan; those of you that know me know that when my mental does not meet reality, I get a bit “Rainman”!

So, going with the flow, I began my modified version of gear sorting and set-up and after about literally, a gallon of sweat, I hit the water with my team-mate, Richard Lewis, for a 60 minute shake out dive on the Prinz Eugenlocated in the Kwajalein Atoll, we have not gotten to Bikini yet; water 82f/28c degrees (of which I never did cool down – my face sweated inside my mask for this entire underwater excursion), depth 118’/35m.  100-minutes later (oops-which would turn out to be status quo for Mr. Lewis and I [Team America] for the rest of the trip; always the last out and exceeding our planned run times), we were up, exited the water, back on board the Truk Master and the 27-hour boat ride north to Bikini began; now I can exit my “Rainman” mode and properly figure out my procedures for the next 7-8 days of what I will call very intense technical diving.

My god that was a long boat ride, to one of the most beautiful and remote places I have ever been blessed to visit.  At about 3pm we arrived into the Bikini Atoll and moored the ship 165’50m above the USS Saratoga; our first shipwreck from the events of Operation Crossroads in 1946.  Arriving earlier than expected, the Captain (Martin Cridge) made the call to put this group of pent-up divers into the water for a short 60-minute dive; 69 minutes later (typical but pretty close for Richard and I) we were extolled with the unique and remote opportunity to dive on the USS Saratoga; 120’/40m.  BTW…we get to do this boat ride again, south, back to Ebeye where we will reverse our experiences of 24 July on the way home…Worth IT?…to be determined

As I sit formulating these letters into words, 0030 hours, 29 July (deciding to forgo tomorrows first dive back to the Sara) I am simply awestruck with the diving so far.  Today is Day 7 and I  exited the water at 1700hrs, July 28; 5 dives completed (3 on the USS Saratoga [Day 5 & 6] and 2 on the Japanese Destroyer, Nagato, [Day 7] I can only wonder what this place would have looked like without the nuclear remodeling done in the 40’s and 50’s; compliments of our US Government.  One could certainly argue that the barren sandy bottom would still be barren. However, had it not been for the fleet of wreckage now resting upon that barren sandy bottom, acknowledgement to nuclear tests Able and Baker, we would not be exploring the incredible and quite historical, “artificial reefs” we have visited so far; The USS Saratoga and the Nagato.


The USS Saratoga is a massive air craft carrier (888ft long/270 meters) sitting upright and proud; collapsing superstructure and rusting aside.  We spent Day 6 (27 July)continuing to explore this underwater monster!

On my second dive, we set-up the Project Baseline station, USS Saratoga, and as I was doing so, I wondered what the corals and reef structure would have been like had they not had to grow on such a radioactive hotbed.  An absolute answerable question had a baseline been established back in the early 40’s. I was proud to establish the first ever Project Baseline station here in the Bikini Atoll.

The corals were small and the fish life, prolific, but not the large schools that I was expecting.  Also, another disillusioned reality for me personally was the visibility.  Nothing spectacular; maybe in the range of 100-125 feet but very cloudy; lots of particulate matter floating.  The “atoll” structure is a huge 200’/60m deep bathtub in the middle of a very deep Pacific Ocean.  Not much water flows through it keeping the clarity high; also possibly a nutrient issue resulting in smaller fish populations?

Dive 1 was 126’/42m for 156-minutes followed 4-hours later (minimum surface interval time required by Captain Martin) by Dive 2, 120’/40m for 120-minutes; 276-minutes underwater, 4.6-hours, not bad for the first day!

Day 7 (28 July) found us moored directly over the Japanese Battleship, Nagato and by 0900, we were descending upon this incredible display of artillery which sits basically upside down; starboard side down and port side up at about a 45-degree angle.  The first thing that just blew me away, mentally and visually is with the stern exposed, the 4 massive screws (props) and the dual rudder system 3’/1m wide and 15’/3m long and high; just gigantic but obviously what was needed to steer a 708’/216m long “floating gun” at 25 knots!

Dive 1 was 165’/50m for 142-minutes again followed 4 hours later by Dive 2, 172’/52m for 132-minutes; chalk up another 4.5 hours of U/W time.  This is an exceptional place and I am fortunate to be here.

A note on the lacking images for the Nagato: the boat heaved during our briefing and my camera system launched off the camera table and onto the floor.  The housing indicating that it was not holding a proper seal and containing about $2500 worth of camera stuff, I decided to leave it behind until I could assess its condition.  Luckily I grabbed the GoPro system off the charger, put it in the housing and away we went.  Turned it on at the bottom and got an error message – low battery- 0%!  Did we do something in history to anger the Japanese?  I think we did!  So…no pictures for you!  These images were from the second dive of the day and are image clips from the GoPro, which did work for this dive.

Also during the second dive of the day on the Nagato, I established Project Baseline’s second Bikini Atoll station; there are now two!

Let me end this first Blog with just one of many recognition’s.   I must start with a huge “Thanks” to my wonderful wife for supporting these many adventures of my life (away from her and my children) and the incredible ladies at my office, Ashley, Jenny and Rose, for their support, love and encouragement  as well!

Stay tuned for Blog 2.  I will get his out in a couple of days (by August 8) detailing Days 8-10 – dive days – and the trip home.  Have a great day and enjoy your research on the Bikini Atoll and Operation Crossroads; the only way you will achieve complete understanding of this Expedition.