What is Tidbits investigating for Bikini Day on July 5 – the swimsuit or the atoll? Well, both! Follow along as we discover the connection between the two.
- Located in the Pacific Ocean’s Marshall Islands, halfway between Hawaii and Australia, the Bikini Atoll is a coral reef consisting of 23 islands surrounding a 229.4-sq. mile central lagoon. The land area is just 2.3 sq. miles. Due to its remote location and small population, it was chosen as a site for the United States to test nuclear bombs beginning in 1946. The residents were relocated to Rongerik Atoll, 120 miles east.
- The detonations took place in seven sites on the reef, inside the atoll, in the air, and underwater. The most destructive nuclear explosion, the “Castle Bravo” blast, took place in 1954, with a blast 1,000 times the magnitude of the Hiroshima bomb. It had a strength of 15 megatons and vaporized three of the islands, leaving a mile-wide crater at the site, visible today. Traces of radioactivity from the blast were found in Japan, Australia, India, Europe, and the U.S. Just how much is a megaton? Consider that a one-megaton blast would wipe out most of New York City and urban New Jersey. The total megatons during the 12 years of nuclear testing on Bikini Atoll amounted to 42.2 from the 23 detonations.
- Although some former Bikini Atoll residents tried to return to their home in 1970, testing showed dangerous levels of radioactive materials. The entire atoll has been declared completely uninhabitable. The residents filed a suit against the U.S. Government in 1975 and were granted an annual compensation subsidy from a trust fund.
- There are at least 10 shipwrecks in the Bikini Atoll lagoon.
- Shortly after the first blast in 1946, two different French designers unveiled their new two-piece bathing suit creation. Fashioner designer Jacques Heim introduced his as the “atome,” because it was tiny like an atom! He was quickly followed by a version created by automobile engineer Louis Reard, who also happened to be a fashion designer. Reard’s design was much smaller, using just 30 square inches of fabric. He dubbed it the “bikini” after the atoll testing site, because he wanted his creation to be “explosive.” Reard managed to get his bikini patented first.
- French model Micheline Bernardini was the first to display Reard’s creation at a Paris swimming complex on July 5, 1946.
- Both designers may have thought they were the first to present their creations, but in fact, bikini-like garments were portrayed in Roman and Greek artwork dating clear back to 1400 B.C. An ancient Italian castle contains a floor mosaic portraying 10 women playing sports wearing bandeau-style tops and separate bottoms.
- June, 1960 saw the release of the pop song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” by singer Brian Hyland. The song quickly reached number one on the Billboard charts and became a worldwide hit. Its release spurred a buying spree of bikinis as the garment soared in popularity. The “beach blanket” movies of the 1960s featuring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon further cemented the bikini’s acceptance on beaches everywhere.
- In 1993, the Olympics Committee declared the bikini the official uniform of women’s beach volleyball teams.