Monday Morning Smile LXII – Who blew up Bikini?


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! What a great long weekend. A little ham, a little turkey, a little  pumpkin pie, and a lot of family. Can it get any better? We are very lucky indeed.

I’m not sure how this subject came up, but it did. The bikini. A little (very little) bit of cloth that created an enormous industry. And not just the swim suit fashion industry. But the tanning industry, the “ab industry”, workout videos, fitness gyms, etc, etc.. Heck, even the illustrious Sports Illustrated is best known for pictures of girls with a swim suit (that is even not meant for swimming). (don’t tell but I even heard that there are pictures on the internet of women in bikinis – who would have thought!)

So what’s up with the Bikini? Well, the bikini owes its name to a massive nuclear blast in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Say What ?!


A Frenchman  named Louis Reard came up with the new racy swimsuit in 1946. He knew it would take the world by storm. After all, it showed a woman’s navel for the first time! Mon Dieu!  However, being the socially conscious person he was, he wanted to bring attention to the fact the U.S. government was conducting massive nuclear tests in the middle of the Pacific.  Guess where? Yep. The Bikini Atoll, which is an island (an atoll actually) halfway between Hawaii and Australia.

29-bikini Worlds-First-Bikini-From-1946-2

Detonated under the ocean’s surface, the bomb nicknamed “Baker” drove a 2,000-foot-wide column of water high into the sky in less than a second. A few moments later, millions of tons of atomized reef and water collapsed back into the lagoon, and a giant shock wave moved out across the water, sinking a 26,000-ton, 562-foot battleship (put there for the test) and lifting the stern of another 880-foot battleship 43 feet into the air. The shock wave released massive amounts of radiation, a phenomenon that was not widely understood at the time. Nuclear tests continued through the 1950’s.


In the mid 1940’s the U.S. government relocated all the Bikinians (about 5000 of them) to other islands so they could conduct the test. Today, there are 5 people on the island, employees tracking residual radiation levels. The U.S. continues to pay the descendants of the original islanders through a trust fund.

Now it is my hope that the Bikini swim suit outlasts the nuclear bombs that made the name famous.

(Please find a gratuitous shot of bikinis here).


dilbert nuclear

p.s. a couple of interesting side notes….

An atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef that encircles a lagoon.

Louis Reard, the bikini designer,  was a mechanical engineer – my how times have changed.

The small box in the right hand of the model is the box the swimsuit came in 9look in the picture above).

The half life of the radiation is not as long as originally thought. Originally the half life was estimated in the laboratory at 37 years. In the environment the half life is estimated at only 9 years. This means the destroyed areas become inhabitable quicker than originally thought. (although still a very, very, long time. Maybe 75 years rather than 200 years).

bikini atoll map



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