Dive Tourism: The Ships

The Ships of Bikini Atoll

The ships sunk by the nuclear tests in 1946 in Bikini Atoll's lagoon belong to the people of Bikini. This is a very unusual situation as most places in the world where there are sunken US warships their ownership is retained by the United States government. For more information about the management of United States Naval shipwrecks visit the following website:

The Agreement Between the Government of the United States and the Government of the Marshall Islands for the Implementation of Section 177 of the Compact of Free Association of 1985:

Article VI: Section 2 - Bikini Sunken Vessels and Cable

Pursuant to Section 234 of the Compact, any rights, title and interest the Government of the United States may have to sunken vessels and cable situated in the Bikini lagoon as of the effective date of this Agreement is transferred to the Government of the Marshall Islands without reimbursement or transfer of funds. It is understood that unexpended ordnance and oil remains within the hulls of such sunken vessels, and that salvage or any other use of these vessels could be hazardous. By acceptance of such right, title and interest, the Government of the Marshall Islands shall hold harmless the Government of the United States from loss, damage and liability associated with such vessels, ordnance, oil and cable, including any loss, damage and liability that may result from salvage operations or other activity that the Government of the Marshall Islands or the people of Bikini take or cause to be taken concerning such vessels or cable. The Government of the Marshall Islands shall transfer, in accordance with its constitutional processes, title to such vessels and cable to the people of Bikini.

USS Saratoga CV-3
Commissioned in 1927, an American aircraft carrier 880 feet in length and weighs 39,000 tons, it rests in Bikini's lagoon at a depth of 190 feet. Her bridge is easily accessible at 40 feet, her deck at 90 feet, and the hanger for the Helldivers at 125 feet. These Helldivers and bombs are still on display complete with all dials and controls. Saratoga had a fuel capacity of 63,200 barrels of fuel oil, 249 barrels of diesel oil, and 132,264 gallons of gasoline. Fuel and ammunition loads during test BAKER were 10% of capacity and 67% capacity respectively. She was reported sunk by the Japanese seven times during World War II. She received seven battle stars.
Eight hours after the waves created by the atomic Baker blast rolled over her, New York Times correspondent Hanson W. Baldwin wrote this epitaph as he watched the Saratoga sink slowly beneath Bikini's lagoon: "There were many who had served her in the observing fleet and they fought with her through the long hot hours as the sun mounted. Outside the reef...the observing ships cruised, while the Sara slowly died. There were scores who wanted to save her-and perhaps she might have been saved, had there been a crew aboard. But she died a lonely death, with no man upon the decks once teaming with life, with pumps idle and boilers dead. From three o'clock on she sank fast, her buoyancy gone, as the fleet kept the death watch for a 'fighting lady.' The Sara settled-the air soughing from her compartments like the breath from exhausted lungs. At 3:45 p.m. the starboard aft corner of her flight deck was awash; then the loud speakers blared: 'The water is up to her island now; the bow is high in the air.' She died like a queen-proudly. The bow slowly reared high; the stern sank deep, and, as if striving for immortality, the Sara lifted her white numeral 3 high into the sun before her bow slipped slowly under. Her last minutes were slow and tortured; she fought and would not sink, but slowly the 3 was engulfed by the reaching waters, the tip of her mast was the last bit of Sara seen by man." Unless, of course, you are a diver fortunate enough to be visiting Bikini Atoll! The USS Saratoga is the largest diveable vessel in the world, and the only aircraft carrier available for diving. 880 feet long. (3 buoys: bow, stern and bridge).
Read ,"Been There-Done That", a story by Captain Robert B. "Bob" Gohr. In World War II Bob landed airplanes on the deck of the USS Saratoga. In 1996 and 1999 [when he had his 75th birthday "aboard" Sara!] he ventured back to dive on his former ship in Bikini Atoll's lagoon.
 Download Three Views of USS Saratoga Poster (101K) as the aircraft carrier rests on Bikini's lagoon. While some of the small print may not be readable, it gives one an idea of what to expect when diving on the ship.
The USS Saratoga bridge begins to collapse after two nuclear weapons blasts and 60 years underwater... 10/17/2006 "I report with great sadness that on Tuesday October 17th 2006, one of the greatest ships at Bikini Atoll, maybe even the world, began to finally show her age. The Mark 37 Gun Director on top of the island / bridge structure of the USS Saratoga started to collapse into the elevator. Unfortunately, diving anywhere near this section of the ship will have to at times be limited or even cancelled. It turns out that this is a slow, ongoing process and it may take a considerable amount of time for the ship to stabilize. However, the majestic, awe-inspiring and astounding beauty of the USS Saratoga can still be experienced by the dives we arrange on her if conditions don't allow for penetration diving."
-Divemaster Jim Akroyd, April, 2007
Update, January 2008: The Mark 37 Gun Director on the top of the USS Saratoga bridge shears off and plunges into the elevator shaft. Diver is shown below where the gun director used to be.
HIJMS Nagato
The Japanese Flagship to the Japanese Navy, she was Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's floating fortress during Japan's World War II attack on Pearl Harbor and was a treasure to the Japanese forces. Japanese Naval historian Masanori Ito wrote: "When World War II began, the Japanese Navy-the third most powerful in the world-included some of the mightiest ships in naval history and was a force worthy of the pride and trust of the Japanese people. Then, in less than four years, this great war machine fell from glory to oblivion. Of ten battleships riding in Hiroshima Bay in December of 1941, nine were sunk. The lone survivor, the Nagato, died at Bikini as a target in an atomic bomb test." The 32,720 ton battleship is at rest upside down in 170 feet of water; her bridge is accessible at 150 feet, the hull and monstrous props at 110 feet. The Nagato was built by Kure Naval Dockyard, launched on Novemver 9, 1919, and completed on November 25, 1920. She was reconstructed in 1934-1936, with torpedo bulges, increased elevation for main armament, aircraft crane, etc. After this refit, Nagato had 10 Kampon boilers, driving 4 sets of Kampon turbines developing 82,300 shaft horsepower (shp) for a speed of 25 knots. Her fuel bunkerage was now 5,650 tons of oil, giving her a radius of 8,650 nautical miles at 16 knots. Her new dimensions were 725' 9" long at the waterline, 113' 6" beam, 32' 2" draught. Her normal displacement was 39,130 tons, 42,850 tons at full load. She carried a crew of 1,368. In June 1944 she was known to be fitted with radar. By October 1944 her armament consisted of 8 x 16"/45, 18 x 5.5"/50 [guns that were later removed], 8 x 5"/40, and 98 x 25mm AA guns. Her displacement had by now increased to 43,581 tons full load, and as a result her maximum speed was 24.98 knots. By the end of the war she had had her main mast and funnel removed for camouflage purposes, as she was holed up in Sagami Bay near Yokosuka. Fuel and ammunition loads during both ABLE and BAKER tests were, respectively, 15% and 10% of capacity. She is upside down in the water and an incredible dive with her four massive screws appearing like an underwater Stonehenge. 708 feet long. (2 buoys)

See a small U.S. Park Service sketch of the Nagato as she rests on Bikini Atoll's lagoon.


Read The Final Voyage of the HIJMS Nagato Battleship, a journal entry by Mr. Fred Herschler, a crewman who helped sail the Nagato from Japan to Bikini in 1946.

For more information on the Nagato, the Sakawa and other Japanese WWII ships, visit the Imperial Japanese Navy Page.

USS Arkansas BB-33
A 29,000 ton American battleship that survived two world wars had a fuel capacity of 37,779 barrels of fuel oil, 119 barrels of diesel oil, and 4,000 gallons of gasoline. The Arkansas took part in the Presidential Naval Review in the Hudson River, October 14, 1912 and then carried President William H. Taft to the Panama Canal Zone for an inspection of the unfinished canal. On April 22, 1914, she assisted in the occupation of Veracruz, Mexico. In December of 1918 she formed part of the escort carrying President Woodrow Wilson to France. In World War II, the Arkansas escorted convoys across the Atlantic. She remained in European waters for the invasion of Normandy where she performed yeoman service at Omaha Beach, the bombardment of Cherbourg and the invasion of southern France. She then moved to the Pacific to participate in action at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The Arkansas, at rest almost completely upside down in Bikini's lagoon in 170 feet of water, received four battle stars for her service in World War II and was sunk by BAKER. 562 feet long. (1 buoy)

More historical info about the USS Arkansas

Historical info re the Arkansas on the Naval Historical Center Homepage

USS Carlisle AA-69
A merchant craft named after a county in Kentucky, she had fuel capacity of 9,695 barrels of fuel oil and 375 barrels of diesel oil. She made three voyages to the west coast from Hawaii and Japan and shorter passages among South Pacific islands. She sits upright on the bottom and is guarded by a magnificent school of skip jacks; and there is almost always a shark siting on this ship. The ABLE blast split her open so she makes for a sensational penetration dive. Fuel and ammunition loads during test ABLE were 95% of capacity. The Carlisle was sunk by the ABLE blast. 426 feet long. (1 buoy).

USS Lamson DD-367
The American destroyer Lamson received five battle stars for service during World War II. She was used to search for Amelia Earhart in 1937 in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. She was deployed from Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, in the unsuccessful search for the Japanese Task Force that bombed Pearl Harbor and later served throughout the Pacific until the end of the war. Her fuel capacity was 3,600 barrels, her diesel oil capacity was 110 barrels, and she was at 50% capacity for both fuels and ordnance when she was sunk by ABLE. Her hull provides a great example of the power of a nuclear explosion as it is horribly twisted and damaged. She is a Bikini divemaster favorite. 341 feet long. (1 buoy).

USS Apogon SS-308
An American submarine with normal fuel capacity of 54,000 gallons, and an emergency load of 116,000 gallons. She made eight war patrols sinking three Japanese vessels totaling 7,575 tons. Her first patrol was out of Pearl Harbor in November of 1943. She later patrolled from Majuro to Midway and was part of Operation Galvanic during the invasions of Tarawa and the Gilbert Islands. Working off Formosa, she ran in a wolf-pack known as the "Mickey Finns" that sunk 41,000 tons worth of Japanese vessels toward the end of the war. She received five battle stars and was sunk by BAKER. She now appears perfectly upright as if ready to drive away on the bottom of Bikini's lagoon. Eric Hanauer of Discover Diving commented, "The shadowy silhouette of Apogon's conning tower, completely enveloped by glassy sweepers, is one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen underwater." 312 feet long. (1 buoy)

USS Anderson DD-411
An American destroyer that received ten battle stars during World War II. She served as a carrier screen in the Coral Sea, Midway, the Solomons, Guadalcanal, and Tarawa. Always on the frontlines, she was with the Lexington CV-2 and the Yorktown CV-5 aircraft carriers when they were sunk in battle by the Japanese. She was also with the USS Wasp and the USS Hornet when they were sunk in WWII. In 1943, in Wotje Atoll in the Marshall Islands, she got hit with a 155mm shell that killed the captain and five officers and wounded another 18 men. She carried 2929 barrels of fuel oil and 168 barrels of diesel oil and was at 95% of capacity of both fuel and ordnance when she was sunk by ABLE and is now at rest on her side in Bikini's lagoon. 348 feet long. (1 buoy)
USS Pilotfish SS-386
An American submarine with normal fuel capacity of 54,000 gallons, she made five war patrols during WWII. Fuel and ammunition loads during test BAKER were 95% of capacity. She received five battle stars, patrolled the Northern Marianas, Bonin Islands, the East China Sea, and the southeast coast of Japan. She was featured in ABC's World of Discovery Emmy nominated production about Bikini Atoll, "Forbidden Paradise." She is on her side and half-buried in the sand. 312 feet long. (1 buoy).
Below: The Pilotfish as it rests on Bikini Atoll's lagoon [US Park Service]

HIJMS Sakawa
The Sakawa, a Japanese ship, was built in Sasebo Naval Dockyard, and launched on April 9, 1944. She was the only vessel of its class to survive the war. Nominal armament 6 x6"/50 (interestingly, these guns were refitted secondary weapons from earlier ships, like the Kongo-class battleships), 4 x 80mm AA, approx. 61 x 25mm AA, 8 x 24" torpedo tubes, 16 depth charges, 1 catapult, and 2 floatplanes. Length 563 feet at the waterline, 571 feet overall, 49' 10" beam, 18' 5" draught.

She had 4 shaft geared turbines from 6 Kampon boilers for 100,000 shp and 35 knots and carried 1,405 tons fuel oil for a 6,300 nautical mile radius at 18 knots. The Sakawa was surrendered to the U.S. at Maizuru in August of 1945, then used for repatriation duties until taken to Bikini where she was sunk by ABLE with an unknown fuel load and apparently no ordnance. 532 feet long as she rests in Bikini's lagoon in an upright position. (1 buoy)

Ships Not Buoyed at the Bottom of Bikini Lagoon

4 - LCT-414

The aforementioned "L" vessels were landing craft with little known history. Some were sunk in the lagoon, some were towed to sea and sunk after the tests, and at least one was "obliterated."

ARDC-13 - A small repair dock.
Gilliam - A merchant vessel
YO-160 - A concrete oil barge

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? The Final Resting Places of all ships used at Bikini Atoll for Nuclear Testing.


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kindle The historical information within this site, while constantly updated, is drawn largely from the book, FOR THE GOOD OF MANKIND: A History of the People of Bikini and their Islands, Second Edition, published in September of 2001 by Jack Niedenthal. This book tells the story of the people of Bikini from their point of view via interviews, and the author's more than two decades of firsthand experiences with elder Bikinians.

Copies can be purchased from this direct ordering link at, or you can also buy and download the Kindle edition.