Nuclear Diaspora: Bikini & Enewetak, 1946-1988

The slides in this collection derive from the anthropological fieldwork of Dr. Leonard “Len” Mason and Dr. Robert Kiste, both of whom served as longtime faculty members at the University of Hawaii-Manoa prior to their retirement from fulltime teaching (Mason in 1969 and Kiste in 2002).

The United States conducted more than eighty nuclear weapons tests on and around Bikini and Enewetak Atolls between 1946 and 1958. The early images in this collection document the lives of Bikinians after they were relocated first to Rongerik Atoll in 1946 and later to Kwajalein (1948), Kili and Jaluit (1949). These early photos were all taken by Len Mason, who returned in 1957 to do further work on Kili and Jaluit. (Please see the online glossary for geographic details on various islands and atolls. For geographic naming conventions used on this site, see the about page. To view a map of the Marshall Islands, click here. PDF viewer required.)

Robert and Valerie Kiste first went to Kili in July, 1963. Prior to the Kistes’ arrival there, they and Len Mason traveled to Guam and Saipan. One set of slides in this collection documents the trio’s trip across the Trust Territory, beginning with Guam and Saipan in the west and proceeding east to the Marshall Islands. Images from this period also include Ujelang Atoll, where the people of Enewetak were relocated in 1947. In 1964, after completing his fieldwork with the Bikini and Enewetak peoples, Kiste took another set of slides on Ujae and Lae, prior to leaving the Marshalls. His research throughout this period was the foundation for his 1967 doctoral dissertation, Changing patterns of land tenure and social organization among the ex-Bikini Marshallese.

Two additional sets of slides were taken on subsequent trips. In 1979, Dr. Kiste visited Majuro, where a number of Bikinians were living at the administrative center. In 1988, Len Mason visited Kili on the occasion of the commemoration of the 42nd anniversary of the Bikinians’ initial 1946 relocation.

In 2005, Dr. Kiste donated his field notes, collected genealogies, research materials and slides (including those shot by Len Mason and others) to the Pacific Collection, University of Hawaii Library. For more detailed information on the arrangement of this collection, digitization procedures, and further research references, please see the about page.

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