Tourists are currently flocking to Chernobyl – the infamous nuclear accident site in northern Ukraine – as the acclaimed new Sky TV show drives a tourism boom.
One Chernobyl tour agency is reporting a 40 per cent rise in trip bookings since the HBO series began in May.
But now a British firm is launching a ‘disaster tourism’ rival – to Bikini Atoll, the site of 23 U.S Navy nuclear bomb detonations.
Rat Race Adventure Sports is planning to offer an expedition to Bikini Atoll, the site of 23 U.S Navy nuclear bomb detonations. Pictured is a nuclear explosion going off there in 1946
The U.S Navy detonated 23 nuclear bombs at Bikini Atoll over 12 years
One bomb detonated at Bikini Atoll, the Castle Bravo bomb in 1954, was 1,000 times more powerful than the devices dropped at Nagasaki and Hiroshima
This group of 23 islands in the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Hawaii and Papua New Guinea, has been uninhabited since it was evacuated in 1946 to become the site of the U.S Navy’s nuclear test campaign.
One bomb detonated there, the Castle Bravo bomb in 1954, was 1,000 times more powerful than the devices dropped at Nagasaki and Hiroshima – with fallout reaching as far away as Australia and India.
The area is yet to be deemed ‘habitable’ by scientists due to lingering radiation fears – but you can visit for a short period of time in relative safety.
And now adventure event operator Rat Race Adventure Sports has outlined plans to host an event there for intrepid explorers, something it says is ‘110 per cent one-of-a-kind, never-been-done, world-first stuff’.
The area is yet to be deemed ‘habitable’ by scientists due to lingering radiation fears – but you can visit for a short period of time in relative safety
In 2016 it was discovered that radiation on Bikini Atoll was still higher than the minimum accepted levels agreed upon by the U.S. and Marshall Islands governments
Chilling: Soldiers watch the Operation Hardtack I thermonuclear detonation in 1958
Rat Race founder Jim Mee says they’ll attempt a full circumnavigation of Bikini Atoll via a mix of kayaking, pack-rafting and running.
He explains: ‘Bikini Atoll is quite simply about the furthest ‘off the grid’ you can go on Earth.
‘It’s also extremely hard to get to, necessitating a charter vessel and a 10-day round trip – extending to 14 days depending on the weather.
Rat Race founder Jim Mee says he’s going to attempt a full circumnavigation of Bikini Atoll via a mix of kayaking, pack-rafting and running
The effects of a blast from a nuclear test are seen on the lagoon shore at the north end of Bikini Island
A bunker on Bikini Atoll. Rat Race Adventure Sports has made assurances that its trip there will be perfectly safe
Bikini Atoll isn’t easy to reach. It lies halfway between Hawaii and Papua New Guinea
OTHER INCREDIBLE LOCATIONS SLATED FOR RAT RACE TEST PILOTS
‘Summit to Sea’ – Kamchatka, Russia
This is a location in the far-east of Russia where bears outnumber humans.
Jim says: “The plan is to insert by helicopter onto the peak of one of the region’s highest mountains, before descending to a river shrouded in thick forest, rafting our way out to the sea. Extraction will again be by helicopter.”
‘Race to the Totem’ – Haida Gwaii, Canada
Rat Race says: “An astonishing multi-sport journey along the entire island chain of ‘Haida Gwaii’ – formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. Starting on bikes and then switching to foot and ultimately sea kayaks, you will journey through these wild and mysterious Pacific Northwestern islands with the objective of reaching the Unesco-protected totem poles on the island of Ninstints in the vast ‘Twilight’ forested Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.”
‘Glacier to Glacier’: Patagonia, Argentina
Rat Race says the route ‘traces a line from the top of the World-famous Viedma Glacier to the equally World-famous Perito Moreno Glacier, in Torres del Paine’s Los Glaciares National Park. The journey involves glacier travel on foot, hiking, kayaking, possibly swimming (for those who wish!) pack rafting and biking’.
‘But this is also a 110 per cent one-of-a-kind, never-been-done, world-first trip.
‘A few divers go here annually, but other than that, no-one has really been there since the 1950s.
‘It has, though, been declared safe enough for travel via the UN Nuclear Weapons Inspection teams and could be the experience of a lifetime for those brave enough to take the plunge.’
Passage to Bikini is not easy.
The adventurers will first need to get to Los Angeles before boarding a 10-hour flight to the Marshall Islands.
From there, there will be an inter-island hop to connect with a charter vessel, before using a specially-secured permit to land at a restricted US military area in the island chain.
You’ll also need ‘evacuation insurance’ and deep pockets, with the pioneering trip expected to cost around £5,500 ($7,000).
And you won’t want to linger too long there.
In 2016, experts from Columbia University, New York, tested the Marshall Islands for radiation. While Enewetak Atoll and Rongelap displayed readings that fell within the safe zone, the radiation on Bikini Atoll was still higher than the minimum accepted levels agreed upon by the U.S. and Marshall Islands governments.
That means that while it’s safe to stay for a short period, those displaced by nuclear testing are still being advised not to return home.
No date has yet been set for Rat Race’s Bikini Atoll trip.
But it’s part of their ‘Test Pilot’ series, where they invite pioneers to join them on reconnaissance missions to the world’s most far-flung places before opening it up to members of the general public.
Jim, who has already established fully fledged events in Mongolia, Namibia, Panama, New York and Florida – part of Rat Race’s ‘Bucket List’ series – reveals: ‘These are pioneering forays into the Great Unknown, where we aim to set down here a number of “firsts”.
‘And if we get enough Test Pilots keen to visit Bikini Atoll, we’d hope to roll it out as an even bigger event in the future.
‘And bear in mind that while some of these trips are not without risk, each is well considered with significant logistical and safety planning behind it.
‘We are a professional operator of some 15 years’ experience in the game and our contractors are hand-picked. If you come with us, you are in good hands.’