Flag of the Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands is a group of Micronesion islands and atolls in the Pacific Ocean, close to the equator and the international date line. The Marshall Islands have a population of about 62,000 people, making it one of the least populated countries in the world. The official languages are Marshallese and English, and the national currency is the United States Dollar. The Marshall Islands are a republic, and gained independence from the United States of America as recent as 1986.

Turbulent history

The Marshall Islands have seen a turbulent history in the last centuries. The first inhabitants were Micronesian settlers that had arrived in canoes. European explorers did not discover the islands until 1526 by the Spanish discoverer Alonso de Salazar. The islands received their name from another captain, John Charles Marshall, who arrived over two centuries later in 1788.

That moment started a chain of different rulers over the islands. The British claimed the land from 1788, but were challenged by Spain, because the earlier discovery. The islands came under Spanish rule in 1874, only to be sold to Germany 10 years later. In 1914 the Japanese invaded the islands and gained official rule after Germany renounced the islands after World War I.

In World War II the islands were a battleground for fights between Japanese and American troops. The islands were added to the US Trust territory of the Pacific Islands in 1944, marking another change of rule for the Marshal Islands. It took until 1986 for the islands to become an independent sovereign nation.

Nuclear Tests

Castle Bravo Nuclear ExplosionThe Marshal Islands have been a big testing ground for nuclear tests by the USA. A total of 67 nuclear devices have been detonated on the islands, leaving parts of the Marshall Islands the most nuclear contaminated areas of the world.

One of the main testing grounds was the Bikini Atoll, where many nuclear devices have been detonated.The test have changed the shape of the atoll, especially after the detonation of Castle Bravo, the largest ever nuclear explosion detonated by the USA (much to their own surprise, the explosion was 2.5 times bigger than expected). In another nuclear explosion on another atoll, the island of Elugelab was wiped from the map entirely.

The Bikini

The test at the Bikini Atoll have been the inspiration for naming the bikini. Two piece garments weren't new, but the piece that was named the bikini was introduced days after the nuclear blast. It was a tongue in cheek name for the garment, as it was advertised as "smaller than the smallest bathing suit". The smallest bathing suit at the time was named the "Atome" and the bikini split the "Atome".