Experiencing nature and conserving its natural beauty has been a prime concern of mine ever since I was a child. That is why I remember the images of nuclear testing carried out at the Bikini Atoll so vividly even after all these years.
About the photographer
Back then I already understood that nature was being spurned. Years later, it was more by chance that I did some research on the topic and actually located a dive centre there which sparked my interest. Had nature bounced back after the atomic violation? Are the wreckages covered in corals, serving as an artificial reef for the fish?
In May 2008 I flew out with my wife Daniela via Hawaii to the Marshall Islands, and from there on a smaller aircraft to the Bikini Atoll. The complexity of reaching the destination was echoed in the dives. All wrecks are at a depth of between 45 and 60 metres. We have a maximum 20 minutes for diving around them. To use this time as best as possible, we discussed our scenes with the help of small, detailed plastic boat models. We knew we had one shot only at taking a picture of every single wreckage.
When you are 55 metres deep and nitrogen narcosis sets in, it is tricky to handle all camera settings, especially in view of the demanding lighting situation around the wreckages. Manual settings were the only ones to produce successful results. Thanks to the cutting edge digital technology of my Canon EOS 1 DS Mark 3 protected by a Seacam underwater housing, I was able to instantly detect any errors I made and correct them. In addition to the sheer size of the »sacrificed« warships, it was nature’s self-healing powers which I found highly inspiring at the Bikini Atoll.
Naturally, some residual radiation remains at the wreckages and on the islands. But the wealth of fishes is simply unique at the Bikini Atoll. Even the coral reefs have recuperated and flourish in a rare splendour. Given permission, nature recovers all by itself – ideally without the help of mankind.