I’ve just finished an amazing read about an extremely inspriational Marshalese lady who worked on raising awareness for nuclear testing at Bikini atoll, as well as associated and unassociated health problems for the people of the Marshall Islands. Darlene Keju was one of those saints who spent her life working for a cause. Sadly her life ended early due to cancer and the book is written by her husband Giff Johnson forming a unique tribute to her work.
Here are some excerpts/facts I’ve pulled from the book “Don’t Ever Whisper” -
* The most destructive nuclear test (of the 67 nuclear tests detonated in the Marshall Islands) was named “Bravo”. It was 1000 times the strength of the bombs that struck Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Due to strong winds on the day of the testing radioactive fallout showered nearby inhabited islands causing birth deformities and numerous health issues. It is now suggested that wind speeds were being monitored, and there was an awareness of the possible danger for surrounding atolls – regardless of this knowledge, the testing went ahead.
* “The weapons tested in the Marshall Islands from 1946 to 1958 was the equivalent of a Hiroshima-sized bomb going off every day for 12 years.”
* Marshalese living in Bikini atoll were told that the testing was “for the good of mankind” and that they needed to leave their island. Some 50 years later they still haven’t been able to move back because of unsafe radiation levels, even though their ancestors inhabited Bikini for thousands of years prior.
* Talking of the American governance of the Marshall Islands, Darlene Keju commented in a speech made in Canada – “Because in our islands, it’s very funny when the United States tells us they are there to protect us, we turn around and ask them – “Protect us from whom?” – We have no enemies. In fact you might be interested to know that the Marshalese do not have a word for “enemy””.
Their only fault, it seems, is their ‘strategic’ location in the Pacific ocean.
* Note – it should be acknowledged that America now provides a huge amount of aid to the Marshall Islands, and is slowly trying to undo the atrocities that were committed during the nuclear testing. They also pay huge sums of money to continue a military base and missile testing on Kwajalein atoll. However in the above instances I am merely pulling information from “Don’t ever whisper”.
* The words ‘Tuak Bwe Elmajnono’ adorned Darlene’s gravestone. Her “message to us, clear in life as it was in death”.. Face your challenges, or literally translated from Marshalese to English – ‘Don’t be afraid to make your way through strong ocean currents to get to the next island’.
Note – With the sloppy seas and challenging sailing around the Marshalls Robin and I can attest to the above literal translation of facing your challenges.