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article imageScientists Stunned By Coral Growth At Bikini Atoll

By Gar Swaffar     Apr 20, 2008 in Environment
Bikini Atoll was the site of nearly two dozen nuclear tests from 1948 until 1958. The recent finding of extravagant coral growths have stunned the scientists who recently dove at Bravo Crater.
Bravo Crater is the name given to the area where the 15 megaton hydrogen bomb was exploded on March 1, 1954. While some of the scientists expected to find a barren sea floor still, they were fully surprised to find coral growths which were up to 8 meters tall (25ft.).
The corals which are doing so well appear to be the hardier thicker branched varieties which existed before the atomic test were conducted. Thee was a survey of the existing coral species performed prior to the extensive atomic testing which took place.
One of the researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University was Zoe Richards. She says of the forty two missing coral species:
“The missing corals are fragile lagoonal specialists – slender branching or leafy forms that you only find in the sheltered waters of a lagoon,” Zoe explains. While corals in general have shown resilience, Zoe adds that the coral biodiversity at Bikini Atoll has proven only partially resilient to the disturbances that have occurred there.
The atoll has been uninhabited since the original islanders were moved to a nearby atoll. The gamma radiation which has decreased since the tests is at a rather low level now, but the radiation which does exist tends to collect in produce such as coconuts and other plant materials grown in the radioactive soils.
The tests at the site vaporized an area including three islands, raised the water temperature to 55,000 degrees, and left a crater 2km wide and 73 m deep.
The area of the Marshall Islands around Bikini Atoll is considered safe to visit, and is occasionally used for recreational diving. The diving though is primarily around the U.S.S. Saratoga which was sunk there during the atomic testing as a target ship.
In a slight twist of irony, the atomic testing which took place is also the reason for the rebound of some of the coral species. The area is left relatively undisturbed which has aided in the recovery of the coral ecosystem.
I've seen Godzilla, Mothra et al, but at least so far, no movies appear to have taken into account the ability of the Reef Mosnter From The Deep to pose a threat to mankind.
The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies website haslink to some excellent images showing the return of the coral species and biodiversity.
More about Bikini atoll, Coral, Nuclear
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