Bikini Atoll Penetration Diving

Notes from Bikini Atoll Divers.

This is a special note for those who would want to spend a lot of time penetrating the wrecks on Bikini Atoll. As a result of being hit by two atomic weapons blasts and being beneath the sea for over 60 years, in October 2006 the towering, massive bridge structure of the USS Saratoga finally began to collapse inward toward the forward hanger elevator shaft. It now appears that the demise of the bridge area is going to be a slow, ongoing process and may take many months before the bridge is finally at rest and not a potential threat to divers. Due to this unstable condition of the USS Saratoga, penetration diving and swims through the hanger deck of the vessel may be limited.

We apologise to our new and returning guests for any inconvenience, but as always the safety of our customers is our number one priority on Bikini Atoll. The evaluation of the current situation has taken many dives and several months of careful consideration for us to arrive at this conclusion. However, the majestic, awe-inspiring and astounding beauty of the USS Saratoga can still be experienced by the dives we arrange on her if conditions don't allow for penetration diving.

When the USS Saratoga's forward hanger deck and the aft section of the hanger deck permit exploration, there is a lot of ordnance scattered on the floor. These dives are within view of light and exit at all times ("cavern") and the possibility of a "silt out" (when the silt gets disturbed by improper fin kicking and the visibility is completely lost) is very low due to the size of the hanger deck.

Video showing scuba diving inside the forward section of the
USS Saratoga (CV-3) at Bikini Atoll.
Credit: Loneshark Productions. (2:58)

The USS Saratoga offers many other possibilities for penetration, but these areas are very tight and restricted with there always being a chance of one getting lost in a maze of corridors. Proper knowledge of line protocols and techniques is required to allow you to visit some of the permanent lines that our team has installed. Laying and following a line properly is much more complicated than it seems at first. Again, there are times when the USS Saratoga cannot be explored in this fashion — even by the most experienced divers — due to the current instability of the vessel's massive bridge structure.

As part of our normal diving schedule we still penetrate the HIJMS Nagato on two different dives, and with smaller groups we occasionally explore a small portion of the USS Arkansas.

If you really want to learn a lot about diving and improve your diving skills, we recommend that you get cave certified, even if you will never dive caves in your life. Most of the skills learned in the cave course can be applied to general diving and especially penetration wreck diving. Of course, a wreck is different than a cave and as such offers its own set of risks (like falling structures and the possibility of entanglement).

We reserve the right to strictly limit and control who does what penetration dives and when at Bikini Atoll. Some penetration dives are best done with a maximum of two or three divers in the team. But ships like the USS Saratoga have many penetration options, thus we can allocate different teams to different penetration dives quite easily.

The USS Saratoga is a unique vessel when it comes to penetration diving. There is no other vessel anywhere in the world where you can prepare yourself for a penetration dive on this great ship. The Full Cave Diver courses offered by numerous training agencies will prepare you with the skills and disciplines needed to safely carry out penetration dives within the USS Saratoga.

Everyone who visits Bikini Atoll goes through a check-out dive on the first dive day regardless of the level of your certification. It is important that you show us underwater that your skills match your credentials so as to enable us to do everything we can to accommodate your needs. Our mission is always to give you the best experience possible based on your skill level.

Be aware that accidents do occur even if a diver has done nothing wrong on the dive. In case of an accident there is a recompression chamber available on the MV Windward.

Suunto D5 at The Scuba Doctor Dive Shop