.......... 60 years later, still uninhabitable, and set to remain so for thousands of years
DER SPIEGEL -- Thursday February 9, 2006
Original at: MARE aktuelles Heft No. 54 Schwerpunkt Salz Feb./März 2006
BIKINI ATOLL, 60 YEARS LATER
The Burden of the Blast
By Maik Brandenburg
In 1946, the Americans detonated a nuclear war head on the Pacific island of Bikini. The inhabitants had been relocated to neighboring islands before the blast. Today, 60 years later, the old folk hang on to their dream that one day they will be able to return. But the young ones would rather go in the opposite direction -- to the U.S.
AP: A nuclear test in the lagunas of Bikini Atoll in 1946.
The man who wants to bring his people home has managed to get himself lost, and that is quite an achievement here, in Majuro. The capital city of the Marshall Islands is at most 400 metres wide, and that only if the sea has a good day. "It must be somewhere around here", says Jack Niedenthal as he walks around the graves on which clothes are spread out to dry. He ducks from plastic gun shots fired by kids, aiming at him between crosses and gravestones, and he avoids a bicycle zigzagging between the rows of graves. Then he stops and retraces his steps, he has reached the end of the graveyard; broken coral atop a wall of rocks. The ocean has already claimed quite a number of corpses, every other week the remains of another get washed out to sea. Not even the sea defenses made of concrete or barrels or rusted car wrecks can hold back the waves for long.
Jack lifts a pot of rice from a grave stone, removes ladles and lids from a cross which obscure the engraving. "Naitari Tamashiro" it says on the stone, she lived to be only 49. Her brother's final rest is nearby; Billy Jakeo did not even make the 30. "Thyroid cancer", says Jack. A woman from the house opposite emerges; she picks up pots and pans. His eyes follow her, smiling, the desecration is forgiven, space is at a premium on the Marshall Islands.
The two deceased are the reason he is here. Naitari and Billy and also the deaf old woman whose children they were. She has another six kids, one daughter is Jack's wife. The old woman sits in her wheelchair at the other end of the cemetery, not moving, her chair cannot negotiate the narrow rows of graves. "I will take her home", says Jack.
On June, 30, 1946 the first American nuclear bomb exploded on the Bikini Atoll in the South Seas. "Able", which was discharged from a plane, had a capacity of 23 kilotons and marked the beginning of twelve years of such trials. The bomb tore apart what was left of the alliance between the Soviet Union and the United States - it was the start signal for the arms race. The Cold War began at a temperature of several thousand degrees Celsius.
The region was suitably far away from the United States and the population was not expected to raise much of a protest. About 42,000 Americans had come to the island, scientists, technicians and the military. The press had demanded excellent coverage and photos, and the U.S. Army presented their "baby" like a proud father. More than 600 cameras were stationed all around the Atoll. Some were to be flown right into the mushroom cloud by unmanned planes while on nearby ships 5,000 rats, pigs and goats were waiting to be burned to a cinder for "the good of mankind". "For the good of mankind", that was the motto chosen by the global salvation army from the U.S. Their ruinous ambition sent shock waves through the South Seas.
In the dozens of years that followed, 23 bombs exploded on the Bikini Atoll, which is part of the Marshall Islands. In total, the Americans detonated 67 nuclear war heads on the far flung islands of the archipelago. According to the U.S. Department of Defense the added destructive potential of these war heads was the equivalent of 7,000 times that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. In other words: on average, during that period 1.6 Hiroshima bombs went off daily.
The flag of the people from Bikini shows three black stars, they are a reminder of those islands that were pulverized in the explosion of the 15 megaton hydrogen bomb, "Bravo", in early 1954. Already, in 1952, the nearby Eniwetok Atoll had lost an island to the new H-bomb, and several other islands were contaminated with plutonium in botched experiments. They will not be inhabitable for thousands of years.
Even today, there are no exact figures divulging how many people fell victim to radiation. Citing "military constraints" the U.S. has locked away data, and since it has proven very difficult to obtain data from independent sources reliable information is extremely rare and hard to come by. According to an estimate by the IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) several thousand people died of cancer as a result of the tests on the Marshall Islands alone. Their numbers must be added to the approximately 430,000 cases of incurable cancer which can be - again according to the IPPNW - attributed directly to world-wide nuclear testing during the twentieth century.
To this day, the U.S. has paid a total of $1 billion in compensation to the people of the Marshall Islands. The victims took the money - what else could they do? Besides, it had become something of a tradition. "We have learned how to dry our tears with the American's dollar bills", they say.
Twenty five years ago, Jack Niedenthal came from Pennsylvania because he objected to the way in which his fellow countrymen were dumping their waste in the South Seas. Also, because of "all the crap we did down there" - and it is not only the craters in the Bikini soil he refers to. In his account of his "awakening", he mentions a certain governor of the Bikini Atoll. "The governor at that time", he says, "convinced the islanders to give up their homes. In return, this man promised to take them to the promised land. Everything was supposed to be for the good of mankind. But then the islanders were shipped to the barren shores of Kili and Ejit, two uninhabitated islands far away from Bikini. And this is where they still are, still waiting and hoping to find their promised land."
After finishing his degree in politics Jack enlisted in the Peace Corps. It was the romantic idea of a Che Guevara supporter. He also thought - as his course of studies was a tough one - he could relax a little. But the Corps sent him to Namu as a teacher, to a remote island without electricity or running water. The supply ship came once every six months. Food was scarce, and eventually the vegeterian had to put up with eating canned meat and began dreaming of pig hunts. He saw the same people day in, day out. "You gotta understand: they know everything about you. They have your soul on a plate". Eleven Americans had come to the South Seas with the Peace Corps; after the first year only three of them were left. "I was not stronger than the rest of them", says Jack "my island simply did not have a runway."
He learned the language of the people on Namu and learned from them how to survive typhoons as well as droughts and, just as the islanders he drank freshwater which had turned salty. And in the end he put in a request for an extension. On an excursion to the capital he went to a bar and was as approached by a man who had heard him speaking the native language. "He was from Bikini, they had just received a whole lot of money from the States. He asked me could I look after it for them."
So this is how, 20 years ago, Jack Niedenthal began working for the Bikinians. The North American is their Trust Liason Manager; he manages the millions from America on their behalf. One fund pays for educational and housing projects and typhoon repairs. From another one he doles out $212.50 once every three months; every single one of the 3,500 Bikinians, from baby to the very old, is entitled to the same sum. It is meant as a form of compensation. In a family of ten, nothing unusual on the Marshall Islands, this amounts to more than $8,000 per year. Their derelict land is their most valuable asset.
Or is it?
Three young people around a kitchen table on the tiny island of Kili raise their glasses: "Cheers!" They are watching old Jamose in a corner of the kitchen. He is Rose's grandpa, facing the wall, humming to himself.
What's he singing this time? The three youngsters at the table are listening, grinning. Of course, the same old melody, the songs about his wife who passed away. For years he has been sending her his songs. About his memories, about his desires. He is singing about a life long past, lost like Miriam. "At least", says Rose quietly, "it is not about Bikini". Not the sad old hum about that enchanted place, that place from long before their time. "Ancient history" says Alson "is there anybody left who can still remember that time?" Well, old Jamose there in his corner does. And all the old folks out there on the islands. But for the young ones listening to the same old fairy tale every day, no matter how enthralling, can be somewhat tedious. This is not Bikini, the world of dreams. This is Kili, the long morning after.
The day after.
Jamose is still humming about his woman, but no -- now he's singing about this land they do not know. What is more, they do not want to get to know it. Bikini. Maybe it's all true; Bikini indeed had lagoons where one could fish all year. And maybe there was so much land that you could not walk around it in a day. They know all the tales the old folks tell. And they've had enough of them.
Dream yourself away from here, that's what Jamose's lyrics say. Away from Kili's huts where you see the same people all the time and the days all feel the same. "We are like a ship at sea", says Rose, but Timius contradicts her. "Not like a ship. At least a ship can move to better places."
Imagine yourself in land where the palm trees grow really tall, that's what Jamose's song invites the listener to do. Where the men bring home fat fish from a deep blue sea every night. Where the beaches are white and the cattle wanders off into vast forests. Where the graves are not washed away by a hungry sea. In this land the men know how to build boats and make baskets, and the women gather copra. The land is rich in panda nuts and bananas. Together people go fishing; together they bring the fish in and divide the catch. Nobody wants for anything, nature's horn of plenty provides for everyone and everything. It is just a matter of reeling it in or picking it from the trees. "Not so much different today", says Rose. "Everybody is just sitting and waiting for the money to roll in from the west." And hoping it may multiply just like fish and fruit did in the paradise they lost.
Their land, so goes the tale, did not know police officers - nor Americans. Who needs police when you have Worejabato residing inside the magic coral watching over the Atoll? Ever since Rose can remember the old folks have been arguing whether their god survived the inferno of the nuclear bomb.
She is 20 years old now, she grew up on Kili. Five hundred inhabitants, a school, a soccer pitch, that's all there is to Kili. The largest buildings are the two churches. There is one restaurant but only if you ask to be served. Then the owner will clear the table in front of the TV set and draw up a menu for one dish only, including soup. Church is three times a week, twice on Sundays. A plane brings the monthly provisions: diesel for the generators, food, and water. If the pilot forgets to bring cigarettes half the population suffers from withdrawal symptoms.
Rose met her husband in the capital Majuro, at High School. She so wanted him to get her away from Kili but he moved in with her instead, away from the crampedness of his parents' home. Here, at least they have their own room. Her brother has his own room, too, and so too her sister and husband and the grandparents. Jamose got the mat in the kitchen. "A child", says Rose "would be great ... for a change."
Everything seems to be forbidden on Kili. The priest disapproved of the disco they wanted. Bikinians, who had converted to the Christian churches after their exile, even scorn TV antennae. Whatever world news they get comes in on video tape, mostly TV sermons and hardly ever even a movie, let alone a recent one. And closing hour for the island's bars is 10 p.m.
Nowhere on the Marshall Islands will you find as many teenage mothers as on Kili and Ejit. Fourteen-year-old mothers are nothing out of the ordinary. "Well, the girls can't get away", says Alson sitting at Rose's kitchen table. And the islands are still awash with "bricks" - those bags of cocaine, which arrived on a storm tide many years ago. The young islanders may have no recollection of paradise. But the coke surely helps them to dream.
The three young people in the kitchen on Kili have got something up their sleeves. They carefully unroll a poster of a colourful nuclear mushroom cloud stating "An atom bomb can spoil your whole day..." and pin it above the old man's chair. They grin from ear to ear. Jamose continues to hum.
"Cheers!", says Timius, Rose's husband, yet again. They are drinking a home-made brew of yeast, grapefruit and coconut milk. Of course, they have to brew it on the quiet, in the bushes and on the beach, as the priest has put a ban on alcohol, too. But this is Alson's farewell party; he is going to emigrate to Arkansas. A so-called Compact of Free Association grants Bikinians a status equal to US-citizenship. They can live and work in the U.S. without a visa or green card. Alson is going to stay with a brother, and he has already landed a good job in one of the many poultry factories. Outside the Marshall Islands their community of ex-pats in Arkansas is the greatest community of Bikinians. Just as well that the Marshallese are truely crazy about barbeque chicken and hot wings. The young people on Kili's beaches don't sing the homesick blues of deportation and exile ("I can no longer rest in peace because of the island and the life I once knew..."). Instead, they have composed their own hilarious song about a chicken which complains of the cold and cannot wait to get into a nice hot oven.
Alson's grandad, who lives on Ejit, walks down to the sea at night when he cannot sleep. Kelen Joasch has actually been back to Bikini for a short time. He wanted to check on his land but he could not find it. The explosion obliterated the natural, ancient marks defining the property boundaries. "But he still claims that one fine day I will inherit his land", says Alson and he laughs. "Hey, I am the proud owner of land that does not exist!" His grandfather has been sick ever since his visit to the island. Because of the radiation or because of rotten canned meat, who knows? Alson would like to sound concerned or angry but he does not quite succeed. For him, as for most of his friends, Bikini is just a myth and the high-rise buildings of Arkansas mean more to him than the coconut palm trees on the forsaken Atoll.
"Tell Jack there's another one less to take home!"
Jack Niedenthal's office is located at the Bikini Town Hall in the center of Majuro. He's got the bombs on his walls, pictures like bullet holes. Photos of the bomb trials "Bravo", "Baker" and the first hydrogen bomb "Mike". Another picture shows goats aboard ships, the nuclear fire is going to evaporate them in an instant. But the black and white representations of the ultimate violence suits his mood. Congress has just voted against granting more money for the clean-up to rid Bikini of the radioactive legacy. An estimated $365,000,000 is needed to excavate the contaminated top soil. "That's only money, peanuts", says Jack. Considering the Bikinians' home was annihilated. Not to mention their identity. "Regarding the monthly payments all islanders are considered equal. This is a point which is in complete dissonance with their tribal hierarchy." The compensation money has turned everybody into passive recipients of charity. Even the children grow into that sort of frame of mind. "It was extremely difficult", says Jack who is married to a Bikinian, "to raise our children in an environment where everybody is dependent on alms."
Right now he is battling with an absurd proposal from the islanders. The Bikinians are trying to claim additional funds from the U.S. to compensate them for diabetes, high blood pressure and rheumatism. Even though they know only thyroid cancer can be attributed directly to the testing. Jack points at the list: "Of course I know what they are going to say in Washington: bullshit!"
Jack is tired. For a long time he has been fighting at multiple front lines. There is, for example, the additional matter of the "King of Kwajalein" who is the reigning chief of the Atoll on which the Americans keep a missile station. The "King" collects rent for his island, to the tune of $12,000,000 per annum. A third of which goes straight to the royal coffers while the inhabitants receive only the tiniest fraction. The majority lives in shanty towns on the island of Ebeye, a few of them find employment at the US base cleaning the facilities. The "king", on the other hand, lives the happy life of a playboy and commutes between his several mansions on the various isles. When in Manjuro he holds court at one of the restaurants, and his evening parties inevitably end with everybody intoxicated on kava. Still, he and his cronies determine politics on the Marshall Islands to a large extent. The king was actually president of the country for a while but was forced to resign because of a corruption scandal. Now he has his eye on Bikini and the compensation money, and has his men check on Jack when he collects the funds. The King says: "Bikini is also mine, my mother was born there." Then he laughs and drinks enough kava to drift off on the clouds of oblivion. Suddenly he bounces back and shrieks hysterically: "Did you know my driver had an affair with Jack's wife?"
Jack does not grace this with a comment, he knows how to handle the "king". Later, he is going to drive to the airport with his wife to collect his kids. They go to university in the States, he says he had to "physically drive them out". Outside his office cars crawl by, and life here moves at a snail's pace too. Neither the cars nor life seem to be able to pick up pace. Even the people's friendly demeanour is said to be a result of their lethargy. It takes twenty muscles to look angry but only three to smile. This is a running gag at the local bars where foreign experts and Peace Corps workers peruse the drinks menu in the early evening. "As much as I hate to admit it", says Jack, "but if you really want to achieve something you have to get out of here."
From his office he also runs Bikini's business sideline - a base for divers. The dives take tourists down to the ships that were sunk during the bomb trials, through schools of peaceable sharks. The trips cost $2,500 per week, and they are completely booked out most of the time. In the evening the guests wander around the lush landscape of Bikini; today, hardly anything points to the horrific fact of the nuclear detonations - except for the numbered trees, a bunker and the absolute lack of birdsong. Jack's crew is changed once a year, and experts say that working on Bikini poses no greater radiatiion threat than an eight hour flight. Only eating food from the island is still strictly forbidden, and that ban will probably be in place for a few more millennia.
The profits from the diving center go to he community, and last year everybody received a few bucks. But apparently there has still not been enough money left over for a decent coffee maker at Bikini Town Hall. Coffee is important, it is served by the lady at the reception, maybe to provide a taste of home; they had a few small coffee plantations on Bikini before the bombs. It is a beverage that keeps you awake - and also the memories of the island.
Again there were a dozen people waiting on the benches outside the office, both old and young. They were all here to see Jack. About cars that have broken down, about money or jobs, about the daughter in America, why does she not send a letter or a postcard? Those are the young ones. The older folks just need somebody to talk to. Jack, they know, will always have an ear for them. They could have gone to the mayor or even to the senator representing the Bikinians at the Marshall Island's parliament. But they chose to see Jack. Jack is American, he is responsible.
"They promised they would look after us", says Jamose Attap. "Until we were allowed to return to the island."
This morning he went walkabout again, even before sunrise, another restless night. He walked around the entire island, over rocks and garbage, but he has long since stopped noticing these things. Now he sits on his sleeping mat again. At the table, Rose and the two men are laughing. Jamose hums himself into another world, he does not hear them.
Nowadays, Jamose Attap can no longer remember the day that changed everything. Was it a Sunday? Important things were always announced on a Sunday. But he can still clearly see the man's shorts. They were catching the wind and billowing out so violently that Jamose thought to himself: I hope he doesn't get blown away. Then he does remember the day after all and he sees Miriam's eyes again. The man continued with his announcement, and Jamose did not understand a word he was saying, but everything would be fine. Everybody said it would be fine. Everything coming in from the outside was good, wasn't it? The legends were full of weird and wonderful creatures that arrived from distant worlds on the other side of the horizon. Spirits who came across the water, incomprehensible, unfathomable. In a word - the unknown stranger.
So this particular stranger was wearing shorts. He spoke of an exodus, explained how they were Israel's children, the chosen ones from the Promised Land. Jamose really did not understand very much, least of all the part about the bomb, a heavy stone probably, a sizable rock. That could indeed be dangerous if something like that fell on these tiny islands. The man then talked about evil and, if Jamose remembered this correctly, it truely was a long time ago, about the world's redemption. If only he had listened more attentively! But his thoughts were all about Miriam, she was wearing a colourful scarf. She looked at him, and the stranger was talking and talking. They would have to leave Bikini, that much he understood.
Of course, they were going to come back, laden with gifts, the way it always happened. Seafarers made it only very seldom to these remote waters but when they came they brought swords and spears, guns and dynamite. They brought porcelain and pots, nets and dresses. The Germans introduced them to the cross and to beer, and they could live with that. Later the Japanese arrived on these beaches, and they brought soy sauce, tobacco, canned meat and rice on plates. And the one thing Jamose knew about the Americans was that they were by no means mean.
That's what they are like, strangers. There was no doubt in his mind that this bomb business could be any worse than a regular typhoon. And were they not well able to weather fierce storms? Even when the wind plucked madly at the palm trees and whipped the rain over their tops. They simply got into their boats, and once the raging Worejabato had become calm again, they returned to their homes. Furtively, Mirian put her scarf into his hands, everything was just fine.
As the Americans were blasting the first couple of reefs to clear the Atoll for their installations Jamose was already sitting aboard one of their ships. Sitting in front of their strange wall and staring at these moving and talking images he even forgot about Mirian. He still feels a shiver when he thinks back to this first time at the movies; his amazement at this magic streaming from a box of light. Their big stone and all the other instruments - no, there was nothing wrong with bowing to these new authorities.
Jamose did not even hear the first detonation. By then he and the other 170 inhabitants from the Atoll had long been evacuated from Bikini. When he boarded the ship he noticed that he had forgotten to bring Mirian's scarf, but it did not matter; they would be back soon.
They first landed on Rongerik; on this Atoll, approximately 200 kilometers away from Bikini, the soldiers had built a "model village". Huts of corrugated iron, all lined up very neatly, also a radio station and a cistern. The islanders missed their huts made from palm leaves and their animals. But there were more serious problems, too.
The palm trees here did not bear enough fruit, and they were too small anyway. The brackish water from the cistern did not make good drinking water, and the fish in the lagoon were not fit for human consumption. The newcomers ate the marrow from the trees which robbed them of future harvests and they ate the poisonous meat of the local fish. A few months later they were all listless and confined to their huts, suffering from an inexplicable bone disease. Still, it took another two years before the Americans came back for the half - starved islanders and shipped them to Kwajalein.
On the American base - still in use today as a mission control for ballistic testing - the stranded Bikinians camped on the runway. The site was a high security installation, and they were not allowed to move about freely. There was no work for anybody, and they got used to feeding themselves on canned meat. Apart from these food rations they were left to their own devices.
Kili is a mound of corals barely above the waterline and it seems like it has broken off from the main Atolls and drifted away for hundreds of miles. This is where they finally stranded in the summer of 1948, this was their last chance. The Marshall Islands are divided up beween the several different tribes, and settling on somebody's territory would have meant accepting another clan's rules. "Where you live", says Jamose, "money is the price for land. Here, it is blood." Nobody ever spilled a single drop over Kili; the island did not belong to anybody.
It takes less than an hour to walk around the island once; it is the tiniest speck in the South Seas. The runway takes up almost half of the available space, one row of wilted palm trees leans miserably into the wind, a rocky beach breaks the waves' energy. But that does not mean it is out of harm's way, the island was flooded many times, and during the six long months of stormy season without mercy the sea takes anybody who dares to venture out in a boat. Kili used to be a prison island under Japanese rule, and for the present inhabitants there is more than a grain of truth in that. Because over a period of sixty years only very few have managed to leave the island. For sixty years the islanders have hoped and prayed that the radioactive isotopes would disperse and disappear, and that a merciful fate would rid Bikini's soil of their danger.
For a short moment it seemed like their prayers had been answered. At the end of the sixties U.S. President Johnson declared the island safe for human habitation. Based on measurements of soil, water and air, it was claimed, that the levels of radioactivity were now quite safe. About a hundred Bikinians went back, even though the majority of the exiled islanders still had their doubts. Like them, Jamose stayed on Kili, the family decided they all would. The United States was magnanimous and they built a few houses, a school and provisions. Only a few years later more sensitive gauges showed a dangerous accumulation of radioactive isotopes in crabs and in coconuts. In particular the level of 137 caesium had built up in plant tissue which - if consumed - destroys the human body's vital ability to absorb calcium.
The Americans handed out leaflets asking parents to chase their kids off the palm trees. They sent drinking water and more provisions, but little by little shipments arrived less and less frequently. Eventually, the islanders had to eat fruit from their trees in order to survive. Ten years after their return journey they were evacuated once more. This time they were brought to Ejit, a small patch of land close to the Marshallese capital Majuro. A return to Kili was out of the question, they would not have been able to live it down.
There were a couple of more attempts at recolonizing the island but they all confirmed the fact that it was not fit for permanent habitation. The half-life of 137-caesium is approximately 30,000 years. Hope crumbles at a faster rate. It was around that time that Jamose began to feel his nights were unbearably long, and he started getting up for his long walks around the island - as if somehow these wanderings were bringing him closer to home. A little later he began turning his face towards the kitchen wall humming and singing to himself all day long. Sixty years after leaving the island of Bikini he sometimes turns away from his personal wailing wall and whispers: "Mirian's scarf. I want it back."
The coffee machine at the Bikini Town Hall has come back to life. Jack pours himself a cup and celebrates the occasion with a couple of visitors; a small victory, unlikely there will be any major triumphs soon. "They do not ask anymore", says Jack, "when they can return?" And if Bikini was declared clean tomorrow he doesn't think that there would be a wild stampede for the boats.
First of all, because it has been too long a wait; and secondly there is now a new generation. Then there is this rift going through the community, another fission product of the big bang. For some, "the bomb" counts as a blessing, at least as long as the compensation payments from the States keep coming. Nowadays they pay homage to the bomb. At Christmas, for example, one can see and hear explosions from sophisticated home made toy detonator boxes.
Then there are others and their numerous sad attempts to go back to the island. The Bikinians are unsure, they now demand safety levels that the Americans think are too high even for their own territory. A level of one millisievert is considered to be safe, the cleaned up the nuclear test sites in Nevada show lower levels than that. The Bikinians demand 0.15 millisievert which is not only illusory but it also increases the cost of return manifold.
Even though Bikini has long since disappeared from the political focus, Jack is still determined to bring the islanders back. It has been his life's work ever since he read about the Bikinians for the first time when he was a student. Ever since he felt outraged at hearing the speeches about the promised land, and last but not least since he witnessed the depressing conditions on Kili and Ejit. And, of course, since he got to know the people. "They are like penguins", says Jack, "anybody can bowl them over." That's why he travels back to Washington to lobby for more funds, again and again. He holds gold frequent flier cards from several airlines, he takes his people to the senators' outer offices and he drags them in front of TV cameras. He wants to make absolutely sure America does not forget. He knows, of course, that their world will stop remembering once the last of the exiled Bikinians has gone. "But I'll do it", he says, I'll get the clean-up done." He is almost 50, and he says he can feel the years. But for them, he is still Moses.
And when the clean-up on Bikini is done, then what is he going to do? Jack hums and haws. He put up a map of the States in his office not so long ago. Well, he says, he could imagine going back to America.
Jack feels a little ashamed, but there it is. Jack wants to go home, too.
Translated from the German by Louise Kennedy.
For Maik Brandenburg, 43, this trip to the South Seas was a first. He was shaken by the fact that parts of this paradise had been so intentionally destroyed. Photographer Tom Georgeson, 36, works for the Parisian Agency Woods Promotion. This feature story for mare is part of an international project titled "Insecurity" which was established to raise awareness of the consequences and catastrophes that the development of nuclear facilities has brought upon the world –- Hiroshima, Chernobyl, the sinking of the submarine "Kursk" and many others. A first exhibition of all the works connected with this project is scheduled for 2006 at the "Red Cross International Museum" in Geneva.