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Scuba Diving Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands
Dive Site: HIJMS Nagato
Location: Bikini Atoll, Marshall Isles
Depth: 40 metres (130 feet) to top of wreck, seabed at 51.5 metres (170 feet)
Visibility: 20 - 25 metres (65 - 80 feet)
Nagato was Admiral Yamato's flagship sunk in the A-bomb tests at Bikini in 1946 to humiliate the Japanese. The wreck lies almost completely upside down due to the weight of her armaments pulling her over as she sank but her huge guns and shattered top hamper still hold her clear of the seabed. It is quite amazing staring into the dark recesses of Yamamoto's fighting bridge whilst remembering his infamous order to attack Pearl Harbour.
A dark, 'narked and eerie swim beneath the ship's decks past the guns reveals the weather covers (tampions) still in place in the enormous barrel ends. This battleship is absolutely enormous so it is very difficult to see much on the short dives dictated by the depth, however there is a brief penetration through the 'bomb handling room'. Diving in Bikini would benefit greatly from Trimix or Heliox rebreathers however there are as yet no facilities to enable this. It is possible to have sofnalime shipped out but the prohibitive excess baggage charges on Air Marshall Isles make this an expensive way to dive and there is little benefit, for Bikinian law does not permit unaccompanied diving on the wrecks and the guides only use air. At these depths narcosis is a most significant problem.
Martin Frankcom, BSAC Advanced Instructor
Dropping over the upturned hull of the battleship that was Admiral Yamamoto's flagship. Underneath the hull forward, huge 16-inch guns are suspended above your head at 50m depth. On another dive, towards the stern, after swimming into a duct and emerging in a seaplane hangar, more guns and then the hull sweeping upwards towards the enormous rudders and propellors. Even after leaving the hull it's 20m to the decompression stages, and there's always the possibility of a curious shark. The size and historical significance of this wreck is unsurpassed, even by the adjacent USS Saratoga.
My Father-in-law, John J. Buckley, was a WT-3C on the USS Piedmont (01/1943 - 02/1946) and was held over from discharge and assigned with a skeleton crew of sailers, to sail the HIJMS Nagato from Tokyo Bay 2/46 to Bikini Atoll 05/46.
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