In May of 2007 I had the profound honor of diving off the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands with my husband Scott and Mike Robinson, Michael Thornton, Matt Mimnaugh (Dive Addict instructors) and seven other Dive Addicts. The trip to Bikini was not smooth. We touched down on seven islands and took 48 hrs. to arrive. The plane was overcrowded and there were live chickens and coolers of fish and oysters sitting in laps. It was third world and sometimes uncomfortable but the people were beautiful and friendly. There are layers of history hidden beneath the culture that we couldn’t even begin to discover but our aim was to touch a tiny piece of history that few get to experience. The island of Bikini has had an interesting story of it’s own. In 1946 the US military arrived at the local church and asked the Bikinians to temporarily vacate the island "for the good of mankind." The Bikinians were told they could end all wars by allowing the US government to test nuclear bombs on their island. They were promised a quick return that has yet to take place. The Atoll is still radioactive and no food can be grown there. The Bikinians accepted the challenge and left their home to try and save humanity. 42,000 military personnel descended on the island with 73 World War II ships, submarines, and aircrafts. They filled the ships with goats, rats, pigs, and hundreds of Coke bottles. A series of 23 nuclear tests were carried out over the islands. I went to Bikini to dive in the graveyard of naval vessels destroyed during Operation Crossroads, which consisted of two impressive blasts; the Able and the Baker detonations. On first glance the Island appeared to be an untouched oasis. The beach was still covered in shells and only eleven technical divers were allowed to visit the island at a time. A cafeteria and a tiny strip of rooms stood on the edge of the jungle. On further inspection there was something so unnatural about the whole island. Everything grew in perfect rows. The palm trees were all evenly spaced three feet apart. They were just a little too aligned, a little too perfect. Everything was planted to cover-up the devastation that once took place there. Everything on the island was irrevocably marked. Our main objective of the trip was to dive and hopefully penetrate the shipwrecks created by the detonations. Our group consisted of technical divers trained to dive with double steel tanks. An average dive consisted of 30 minutes of bottom time to a depth of between 130-180 feet and a decompression time of 50 minutes. Decompression (to eliminate excess nitrogen from deep dives on air) was done on a series of hang bars and dangling regulators that supplied varying percentages of oxygen to us. Every dive was a wreck dive and all of the ships etc were active during World War II. We did two dives a day for a total of 12 dives. Each day would start with a history lesson and a dive briefing. I heard stories of naval battles and war much as I had in previous history classes at but nothing can quite prepare you for seeing the ethereal remains. I wasn’t fully prepared for the flood of emotions that would accompany visiting each of these ships. The connection I felt to each of them was the greatest history lesson I have ever received. The most majestic ship, the USS Saratoga CV-3 was the first aircraft carrier ever built in the US. Her decorated and impressive history made for incredible diving. I couldn’t help but feel the pride of the American people while staring up at her masterful bow from below. Her hangar had recently collapsed but three of her aircraft lie around the ship for exploration. As we swam across her deck at 150 feet we could see wisps of oil signaling yet another collapse inside. The ship was literally disintegrating before our eyes. We did multiple penetrations through her living corridors through skeletal rows of bunks and sinks. Little pieces of history sit inside the Saratoga. Carefully protected treasures were everywhere. Dishes, dive helmets, torpedoes, a bugle, and artillery shells of every kind are surrounded us. These artifacts are usually pillaged but have been left out of respect to the Bikinians (the guardians of these ships.) Hundreds of Coke bottles still littered every ship, completely intact. We can all rest easy than in the event of a nuclear war, our Coke will be safe. On day two we parked above the notorious flagship of the Japanese Imperial Navy, the HIJMS Nagato. It was a truly amazing series of dives. Each dive would begin with a descent down a rope into complete darkness for the first 125 feet. The cold water closed in on you in total silence until you saw the looming giant suddenly appear below you. The ship had an eerie presence. It made me shudder as if it had a personality. We were “waking a sleeping giant”-a piece of history that has lain untouched and hidden for so long. We could almost hear Admiral Yamamoto launching the attack on Pearl Harbor. The enormous guns and propellers defied imagination. I could have swum up the barrels of the guns. We did two more dives on the Nagato and it never lost its ominous, shiver inducing presence. World War II seems to have left ghosts and echoes on all of the ships. I felt myself absorbing the vestiges of fear, triumph, anger and pride. As we swam through the remains of the Nagato bridge you could almost hear the infamous call sign "Tora Tora Tora." We were able to penetrate the seaplane hangar, living quarters, and other sections of the ship in a series of three dives. On the Anderson DD-411 we saw the tiny ladder leading up the side of the ship where over a thousand sailors found their salvation from drowning during every major World War Two battle. Each diver took a moment to climb the rungs and take in the emotions that those war-torn young men must have felt as they climbed to safety. The emotional impact of seeing these ships is hard to capture. The awe and respect they command is truly humbling. It was life altering. Besides the Saratoga, Anderson and Nagato we dove the Lambson, Carlisle, Arkansas, Anderson, and the Apagon Submarine. On our return trip we stopped in Hawaii and visited the Pearl Harbor memorial. We stood aboard the US Missouri pondering the war. We had seen the ship that called the US into action and now we stood at the spot where the truce had been signed. Even though I wasn’t alive during World War II it has touched my life. I now carry a piece of it with me. History came alive for me on a small island in the middle of Pacific. Scuba diving has opened doors for me that I never would have considered before. It not only allows me to explore a world of aquatic life, more beautiful than anything else I have seen, but it also allows me an incredible look at history and humanity. This is a hobby worth having!