Rongelap Atoll

RONGELAP: Big hole

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FACT FILE
Number of Islets: 61 Population: 79 (2011) Land Area: 3.07 square miles Lagoon Area: 387.77 square miles Yacht permit fee:  You have to buy a permit for Rongelap Atoll and Rongerik Atoll. Each are $25. Mayor: James Matayoshi (Phone: 625-7177)

Rongelap is one of the so-called four nuclear-affected atolls. It is historically notable for its close proximity to US hydrogen bomb tests in 1954, and was particularly devastated by fallout from the Castle Bravo test. (See Timeline below.)

Late in 2011, a number of US Interior Department officials, a US Embassy official, and local leaders visited Rongelap to inspect progress on housing and power projects that are intended to lead to the resettlement of the atoll (see photo below). Mayor James Matayoshi welcomed the visit and especially the presence of then Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior Tony Babauta and Director of Insular Affairs Nicolao Pula. While on the island, the group broke ground for a new elementary school. Matayoshi said the Interior officials expressed confidence in the construction work underway that will see 50 new homes built. “They should be completed over the next six to nine months,” Matayoshi said at the time.

NOTE: The images in the above slideshow were taken in early 2017 by Lanny and Ginger of the yacht SwiftSure. Thanks guys!


Luc Callebaut and Jackie Lee of the Yacht Sloepmouche kindly gave me permission to include his videos on my site. Komol Luc and Jackie!

The following slideshow contains photos taken prior to 2016.

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Nuclear Time Line

(Thanks to Wikipedia)

1946: United States Navy evacuates Bikini Atoll Islanders to make way for nuclear weapons tests.

March 1, 1954: United States detonates 15 megaton hydrogen bomb despite knowing fallout will hit Rongelap.

March 3, 1954: US evacuates Rongelap island to Kwajalein Atoll. Islanders have vomiting, diarrhoea, skin burns and later their hair falls out.

1957: Atomic Energy Commission declares Rongelap safe for re-habitation. US scientists note: “The habitation of these people on the island will afford most valuable ecological radiation data on human beings.”

1958: Rates of Rongelap miscarriages and stillbirths twice the rate of unexposed women.

1963: First thyroid tumors begin to appear.

1971: Independent Japanese medical team invited by Rongelap magistrate denied permission to visit by US citing “visa problems”.

1976: Report finds 69% of the Rongelap children who were under 10 in 1954 have developed thyroid tumours.

1984: Marshall Islands senator Jeton Anjain requests Greenpeace to help evacuate.

1985: Rainbow Warrior makes three trips to evacuate the Rongelap community to the Mejato and Ebeye islands on the Kwajalein Atoll.

1986: Nuclear test compensation approved, setting aside a $US150 million trust fund.

1989: United States Department of Energy continues to insist Rongelap safe for habitation.

1994: Independent scientific study finds that depending on dietary restrictions, 25 to 75% of Rongelap population would exceed the 100 mrem maximum annual exposure limit set.

2000: Marshall Islands government submits Change of Circumstances petition asking for significantly more compensation than the $US150m.

2005: Bush Administration states it has no legal responsibility to provide additional nuclear test compensation.

2007: The Nuclear Claims Tribunal awards Rongelap more than $1 billion as fair damages for its land damage claim, however, since the $US150m trust fund is almost completely depleted this compensation can never be paid.

2009: United States government wants an end to commitments for compensation with Rongelap.

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