Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A British Bloke, a Bomb and Spongebob Squarepants.

The Marshall Islands are named after Captain John Marshall, some British bloke who rocked up in his boat in 1788 and proceeded to name the islands after himself. Apparently the Spanish had already laid claims to the islands in the 1500s (not entirely sure if anyone actually asked the Marshallese if this was okay but I doubt it) which was then sold on to the Germans in 1884. I love the hush hush stories of cannibalism around this time (to be fair who wouldn't want to defend their atolls); though I think the official line is that the explorers (or 'conquerors' if you prefer) were met with open arms and lashings of breadfruit. German surnames are common in the Marshall Islands - Muller being one - and there's a definite similar sound in the language.

During the First World War Japan grabbed the German territories in the Pacific, then the Americans grabbed them from the Japanese in the Second World War. The RMI gained independence in 1979 and in 1986 it entered into a Compact of Free Association with the USA which in theory means that Marshallese people have the right to live and work in the US but as the airfare to Hawaii is so expensive ($1200 when I was there) and the average wage is $2 per hour most of them never get there; the ones who do end up working in chicken factories in Arkansas for some reason...anyway...

After WW2 the nuclear arms race began with the USA and USSR vying to build the biggest and most destructive bombs. Each needed somewhere to test these bombs and between 1946 and 1958 the US dropped 67 nuclear weapons on the Marshall Islands including the biggest they conducted: Bravo on Bikini Atoll.  The fallout from these bombs resulted in the death of many islanders, the contamination of not only Bikini Atoll but many of the surrounding atolls and birth defects. Bikinians have never been able to return to live there as it is still classified as unsafe to live all these years later. More info on Bikini can be found on here:

So yeah Bikini is actually a place. My boss was Mayor while I was there. Apparently the Bikini, you know the swimwear, is actually named after it as the original designer wanted a particularly 'scandalous' name for a scandalous piece of clothing. Ironically you can't wear a bikini in Bikini - cover your knees girls - they're sexy!

So that leads me finally to Spongebob Squarepants.

He lives in Bikini Bottom so while I was there I decided it was fitting to get a Spongebob Squarepants checkbook (spelt the American way as us Brits are far to sensible to allow this) . They bounced quite a lot but that's unsurprising when you only use your cartoon cheque book to buy beer!

1 comment:

  1. I was hoping that you would include Bikini in your blog. When Anna told us that she was going to the RMI, I freaked out thinking that she would become radioactive. I grew up knowing about the testing on Bikini. We visited The Nuclear Claims Tribunal on our first visit to RMI in 2007. Very upsetting part of our American History.