Bikini Island is a lush, tropical landmass in the Pacific that’s part of an atoll of the same name. In 1946, the island’s residents were evacuated from their homes at the behest of their chief so the United States government could test atomic and hydrogen bombs there. These tests lasted until 1958, and a decade later, the islanders were told they could return home.
Nathan Note was skeptical of the government’s claims that the area was safe for human habitation. So he became an activist dedicated to warning Bikini Islanders about the dangers of radiation. Most of the Bikinians listened to Note’s arguments and refused to return home. About 100 natives, however, believed that the U.S. government wouldn’t put them in harm’s way and returned to Bikini Island.
In 1978, those resettled residents were evacuated when new scientific data showed dangerous levels of residual radioactivity. Further tests revealed that they had ingested large amounts of radioactive cesium from crops and well water. High levels of radioactive cesium exposure can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, coma and even death.
Note was part of the first Bikinian delegation to go to Washington D.C. and demand help for his people. After years of neglect, the U.S. government granted several multi-million dollar nuclear test compensation trust funds to the Bikini citizenry. To this day, Bikinians remain in exile.
Note died on June 19 of natural causes. He was approximately 85.