Whatever level of training you have, either the minimum required for Bikini Atoll or higher, we prefer you dive in the configuration you are most comfortable with. In general, you should be comfortable diving with manifold twin cylinders, with at least one stage cylinder.
We provide dual steel 12 litre 300 bar cylinders typically filled with 250–260 bar of air, plus at least one aluminium 11 litre (80 cu.ft.) cylinder typically filled with 200–220 bar of EAN50. The manifold valves will accommodate DIN regulators.
Safe diving at Bikini Atoll
Bikini Atoll is without a shadow of a doubt the best wreck diving you will do in your diving career. All the hoopla ever spoken about the sunken nuclear fleet at Bikini Atoll is all true! But you’ll be a long, long way from help, so safe diving procedures are essential.
Dive Frequency and Times
At Bikini Atoll you’ll typically be doing mostly deep, long decompression dives ranging from 30 metres (100 feet) to 55 metres (180 feet) in depth. For most, the dive program includes two dives per day (morning and afternoon), for a total of 17 dives. Each dive ranges from 60 to 120 minutes in duration. Plenty of bottom time on the magnificent wrecks in bathtub-like conditions — warm water all the time, no current, no surf and very clear.
However, the MV Windward will be typically moored over the wreck of the USS Saratoga during the surface interval between the morning and afternoon dives so you can get into the water when ever you want. Most places would say “Unlimited Diving”, but in reality the majority of the diving is deep and long stuff, so realistically you will only probably manage a max of two dives a day. Remember absolute care must be taken to ensure your health and safety at all times in such a remote place.
Dive planning is up to you, so if you want to do a 3 hour runtime, then we will plan for it. Again, taking safety into consideration, conservative diving is essential!
Before each dive the dive masters give a full briefing about the history of the vessel being dived, its unique characteristics and a comprehensive dive plan. For the morning dive the briefing is typically at 08:00 am. For the afternoon dive it’s typically at 14:00 pm.
Typically MV Windward will be moored to a buoy on the wreck when you are diving on the USS Saratoga. You’ll enter the water using a giant stride from the side doors, or from the rear dive platform. You’ll make your way to the buoy line at the bow and descend down to the wreck. At the end of your bottom time you’ll come up the buoy line and at about 12 metres, make your way to the deco bars that will be hanging at the stern of MV Windward. When you’ve completed your deco and safety stop obligations you’ll make your way to the stern dive ladder of MV Windward, pass up any stage cylinders, pass up your fins, and exit the water.
When diving on the other wrecks at Bikini Atoll, MV Windward will typically run live. It will pass by the marker buoy for the wreck being dived. You’ll enter the water when instructed to do so via a giant stride from the side doors, or from the rear dive platform, and descend down to the wreck using the buoy line. At the end of your bottom time you’ll come up the buoy line. The MV Windward’s tender will be moored to the buoy line with the deco bars hanging below it. At about 12 metres, you’ll make your way to the deco bars. When you’ve completed your deco and safety stop obligations you’ll make your way to the starboard side of the tender and pass up your stage cylinders. You’ll then make your way to the line at the stern of the tender. MV Windward will come in close, and when you’re told to do so, you’ll swim on the surface to the stern dive ladder of MV Windward, pass up your fins and exit the water.
The Scuba Doctor recommends open circuit divers plan on having dual steel 12 litre cylinders, typically filled with 250–260 bar of air. Then a carry stage aluminium 11 litre (80 cu.ft.) cylinder typically filled with 200–220 bar of EAN50. Finally, a second stage steel 7 litre cylinder typically filled with EAN95 and hung on the deco bar.
There will be an aluminium cylinder with EAN50 hung on a line from the support vessel at 15 metres, plus a second aluminium cylinder with EAN95 hung at 6 metres. These are for use by all divers in an emergency.
The Scuba Doctor recommends very conservative dive planning. If you plan to simply dive your mixed gas dive computer, then we recommend a conservative setting. We also suggest that after your dive computer has cleared all deco obligations and your safety stop, you still spend an additional 10 minutes in the water at 3–6 metres.
Penetration diving at Bikini Atoll
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.
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.
Risk/Diving isolated areas
We don’t want to scare you off, but with dive expeditions like this it is extremely important to really understand the magnitude of such a trip. This is not for everyone and with the sheer isolation of where we are, you really need to make an informed decision on whether you want to come or not.
The biggest thing is to understand that we will be onboard a 24 metre vessel for 14 or so days out at sea. We will be 25–30 hours away from the nearest help which is a USA missile testing base, so they aren’t thrilled that we are going through there in the slightest. There is an airfield in Bikini Atoll where turbo propped planes can land. This will be the only immediate access we have to the outside world if it all turns to custard! However, operational availability of the airstrip can’t be guaranteed.
Diabetics Please Note: Because of the repetitive decompression diving we do at Bikini Atoll, we do not recommend that diabetics dive Bikini Atoll unless there has been careful consideration and clearance by a physician. If you are a diabetic and have been cleared by a doctor for diving on Bikini Atoll, you should have a full understanding of the consequences and dietary needs of doing this kind of diving.
Minimum equipment requirements
You will need to bring the following items:
Backplate and wing — A wing and back plate system capable of carrying twin 300 bar 12 litre steel cylinders and at least 1 x 11 litre aluminium stage cylinder. A dual bladder wing is recommended. The wing should have a minimum of 45 lbs of lift. Note: Standard type BCD’s, even if recommended for use with twins, are unacceptable.
Dive Computer — You need a dive computer capable of switching between a minimum of 3 gasses, i.e. Air, 60% Nitrox, 100% Oxygen. You must make sure your computer can handle repetitive decompression diving.
Backup depth and bottom timer — or a second dive computer which would typically run in gauge mode.
Two high performance DIN regulator sets configured for twin cylinder operation. First and second stages. — Recommend 5-7 foot hose on one second stage, SPG, BC low pressure inflator hose.
Note: Yoke regulators are unacceptable.
Stage DIN regulator set — Suitable for breathing up to 100% O2. (Typically used for your EAN60 or EAN50 stage cylinder.)
Minimum of two dive torches (primary and back-up) capable of handling 60 metre depths.
Surface Marker Buoys (SMBs)
One red/orange coloured surface marker buoy
One fluro yellow coloured emergency surface maker buoy, preferably with the word ’emergency’ printed along it. A slate should be fixed to the top to state details of emergency.
Reels, or spools
One with a minimum 15 metres of line
One with a minimum 50 metres of line.
Mask and spare mask — Spare mask to be carried on all dives.
Dive slate — A dive slate is to be carried on all dives. Note: This is in addition to the slate used with the emergency surface marker buoy.
Fins — Split fins are not recommended.
Protection — 3–5 mm full wet suit. Some divers like to also use a hood or helmet, boots and lightweight gloves.
Please note: The above are minimum equipment requirements. You are welcome to bring more, for example, a spare set of regulators, should you be more comfortable with the additional equipment.
Second stage cylinder: The Scuba Doctor recommends you consider diving using a fourth DIN regulator set for a 7 litre steel stage cylinder with EAN95. This stage cylinder can be hung on the deco bar for your use at the end of the dive.
Inspect and test ALL equipment before the trip
We would like to stress the point that the dive equipment you bring for scuba diving at Bikini Atoll should be properly inspected and tested. Most equipment manufacturers require a minimum of an annual service. We recommend, even if your equipment is within its service period, you have at least a “bench” test performed by a qualified service technician like The Scuba Doctor. It is important to have this done before you come to Bikini Atoll as we do not have the ability to provide maintenance on customer’s dive gear while on the trip.
You’ll be a very long way from any source of spare dive equipment. If you have dive gear that needs special batteries, or special replacement components, please bring spares. You don’t want to have your ability to dive at Bikini Atoll ruined because of faulty, unfixable dive kit.
Training certifications for diving at Bikini Atoll
It’s so important to ensure that you have the required training, skills and experience for a trip of this magnitude. The diving environment on the nuclear fleet at Bikini Atoll is certainly unique and as such requires special procedures.
However, contrary to what most people believe, Bikini Atoll is actually a very benign environment for deep diving as we have a clear, warm water lagoon with no discernible current. The average maximum depth of dives is 50 metres (165 feet), however the flight deck of Saratoga is at 28 metres (90 feet), and the bridge at 14 metres, so afternoon dives can be much shallower than 50 metres.
Minimum training qualifications and experience
Advanced Nitrox or equivalent.
Appropriate technical diving certifications and experience will greatly enhance your experience at Bikini Atoll. These include:
TDI – Advanced Nitrox & Deco Procedures;
IANTD – Tech Nitrox;
NAUI – Tech Nitrox & Deco Techniques;
ANDI – Technical Nitrox; and
PADI – Tec 50.
These qualifications will address decompression procedures, dive planning, emergency procedures and appropriate equipment configurations.
For CCR divers you will need the rating on the unit that you will be diving with, plus an up-to-date log book detailing your experience in these depth areas.
You don’t need to be a “Super Tech Diver” to dive at Bikini Atoll. However, good buoyancy and ascent rate skills, plus Advanced Nitrox certification, are an absolute necessity.
When you book onto the Bikini Atoll trip we will be asking for your latest instructors contact details. We will contact them and inquire about you. Please do not be offended by this. This is for EVERYONES enjoyment and safety. If the wrong people with inadequate training and experience, come on this dive expedition it will make things really uncomfortable for all when we cannot allow diving operations to take place for these people because their skills are not up to safe standards.
We do not offer training courses on Bikini Atoll trips. We advise our customers to take the various training classes that might interest you before you get to Bikini Atoll. Please call The Scuba Doctor to organize an appropriate training program.
If you doubt whether you are prepared enough for the diving at Bikini Atoll, please contact us and we will Skype or call you on the phone. We will gladly spend the time going over some ideas to assist you in your preparations. It’s worth it to be prepared. That way we can all have a great time and not worry about unskilled divers and safety problems.
More highly qualified and experienced is better
The minimum qualifications may not equip you to be able to experience all that diving at Bikini Atoll has to offer. Basically, you’ll get the most out of this trip if you’re an Extended Range diver (max depth 50 metres), or normoxic trimix diver (max depth 65 metres). Even better if you have wreck or cave penetration certifications and experience.
Please note: The higher your skill level and the more experience you have, the more you will enjoy the diving on Bikini Atoll.