From Issue 47, Summer 2004
cleans up nuclear test island
BRITAIN has agreed to clear, up Christmas Island
of the debris left behind by the
nuclear tests conducted by the UK and US governments more than 40
ago. Work is expected to begin this year.
The agreement, eight years in the making,
has delighted the Kiribati government. At a formal signing
in Bairiki it was described as a “major environmental
success” for both countries.
The project will involve the removal
by Britain of
rusting trucks, pipes, cranes, boilers and
bulldozers. Some items of equipment still bear the word ‘‘Grapple’’ stenciled
on them from the operational code name used for the tests conducted in the 1950s
Britain’s Ministry of Defence will appoint
contractor to carry out the work under the supervision of a project manager
who will design, supervise and manage the contract.
A five-man team of environmental
consultants and an engineer from the Ministry of Defence visited the island
late last year. Islanders will stand to gain immediately as the agreement
specifies that they should be recruited to help with the work.
A longer-term beneficiary will be tourism.
The only visitor attraction at the moment is deepwater
sports fishing. The waters around the island are renowned for the varied
species of fish available, and attract serious fishermen from around the world.
An official of Transpacific Holidays, which is
based at Gatwick, said: “Most people who want to go to Christmas Island are people who served there during
“We are happy to arrange holidays there, but we
point out to holidaymakers that the amenities are basic.
“However, we certainly hope that tourism will
benefit. Holidaymakers are always looking for somewhere new or different. Christmas Island could easily become
the in-venue of a Robinson Crusoe type holiday”.
Christmas Island is remote by any standard. It lies
in the country’s eastern island group about 2,000 miles east of the capital island of Tarawa. However,
tourists can reach it in a 3 ½ hour
flight from Honolulu
or, if they fancy a more leisurely voyage, by
supply ship from Tarawa.
Transpacific Holidays book visitors
into the Captain Cook Hotel, which was developed out of the old RAF officers’ quarters.
It says that the hotel can best be described
as adequate -“but everything works and the water is hot!”