Have you thought about a vacation to Christmas Island?

Posted on August 31st, 2008 in General by Robert Miller

Christmas Island in the Pacific was one of the islands used by the British to test their hydrogen bombs between 1957-1962. The nuclear test ban treaty, signed in 1963, ended testing in the region, leaving the island in a state of rubble from leftover construction and the imprint of a very large bomb. The hydrogen bombs tested there included a 3000 kiliton explosion detonated at 8200 feet and a 24 kiloton explosion from a tower over land (the Hiroshima atomic bomb was 15 kilotons). On several occasions since the test ban treaty, both the U.S. and British visited the region to evaluate radioactivity and reported finding none. The British have since done a massive cleanup and disposed of tons of leftover debris. Salon Reporter David Wolman visited the island recently with a Geiger counter and describes a place of pristine beauty, including one of the world’s largest unperturbed coral reefs. The island is teeming with birds and surrounded by an abundance of fish and giant coral formations–a scuba diver’s paradise. The background radioactivity he measured was less than what one would find within an American city. Because humans were not allowed into the region for many years (there are still areas deemed unsafe among the testing sites, including areas in Nevada), the region has rebounded with abundant life and coral reefs that look like they might have appeared when Captain James Cook discovered the atoll on Christmas Eve, 1777. But the coral reef has probably improved since Cook’s discovery, since the large bomb crater has been the site of a new untouched intact growth of coral apparently stunning to the scuba diver. Wolman describes the region as “atomic tourism with a naturalist spin.”

Apparently, the region has now become popular to sport-fisherman who come, with sunblock and uv protective clothing (it seems you can get a sunburn through a t-shirt-not aided by radioactivity) and fly fish in the shallow reefs for bonefish. One of the tourists remarked, “The contrast of it is amazing. I mean, the hydrogen bomb is the most powerful and destructive thing there is, right? Yet out here, this place, and the reefs we saw yesterday — it’s just gorgeous.”
Much of the Pacific atoll region was left deserted after the bomb testing, although villagers have returned in some regions. But the absence of exploitive human behavior has allowed nature to take over and reconstitute the area to give the oddest juxtaposition between man’s most destructive weapon and nature’s ability to do repair work in his absence. If you’re planning a vacation there Christmas Island is only about 3 hours away from Honolulu. I guess the message is “take your flyrod.”

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