–Also aired as “The Ghost Fleet of Bikini Atoll”–
July, 1946. Bikini. It was the first of 23 nuclear tests the US government made in their race against the Soviets during the Cold War.
Between 1946 and 1958 the United States embarked on one of the most spectacular scientific experiments the world has ever seen. To test the newly invented atomic weapon, 67 nuclear bomb tests were conducted in the South Pacific on Bikini and Enewetak Atoll – among them some of the biggest explosions the world has ever experienced.
A remote atoll in the Marshall Islands, set in the vast blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean between the Philippines and Hawaii. Ironically though, it was this isolation, that sealed the atoll’s fate: During “Operation Crossroads” in July of 1946, two atom bombs were used to sink a ghost fleet of 84 vessels, destroying the natural environment and leaving parts of the huge atoll ring permanently contaminated in the process. The islanders are still reliant on imported food even today.
The American armed forces singled out Bikini Atoll as the place to detonate the first atomic bombs since Nagasaki. They assembled a huge fleet of decommissioned warships to be sunk in the most dramatic way possible. It wasn’t just about testing the destructive power of the bombs though; at the outset of the cold war, they were also seeking to make an impression on the Soviet Union.
In February 2008 a top team of scientists, historians, divers and Bikini experts embarked on an exciting scientific mission to this “paradise lost” in order to find some answers to the questions surrounding the atoll, its nature and how it has dealt with its nuclear history.
A submersible designed to hold eight people allowed the scientists to explore the underwater world and the nuclear fleet it still harbours on its grounds in a way no scientist has ever been able to before. Spectacular, never seen before footage of the underwater world of Bikini is combined with outrageous air shots filmed from a helicopter and mind-blowing archive material that brings the astonishing history of the atomic bomb tests and their aftermath back to life.
“Radioactive Paradise” is a fascinating scientific investigation in HD format which brings the unparalleled beauty and excitement of this mission into the viewer’s home.
Produced by ALVAREZ Filmproduktion and Context TV GmbH in Association with Vulcan Productions for ZDF and Discovery Science Channel