September Object of the Month Blog
The Daigo Fukuryū Maru which translates to the Lucky Dragon 5, was a Japanese wooden tuna fishing vessel. It was on a fishing trip in the Pacific Ocean near the Marshall Islands on 1st March 1954 when it was exposed to nuclear fall-out from the testing of the Castle Bravo thermonuclear weapon by the United States near Bikini Atoll.
Although the fishing boat was outside of the danger zone defined by the US Navy the test was twice as powerful and due to changing weather patterns the wind blew the nuclear fall-out outside the danger zone. The fall-out fell onto the Lucky Dragon in the form of fine white ash which had formed from the coral of Bikini Atoll and absorbed the radioactive material.
The crew scooped the ash into bags with their bare hands, and one member even tasted it. The fishermen all started to feel ill with the symptoms of radiation sickness shortly after the ash fell and returned to port at Yaizu arriving on the 14th March. The crew were suffering from acute radiation syndrome and had symptoms of nausea, headaches, burns, bleeding gums and eye pain. The chief radio operator Aikichi Kuboyama died on the 23rd September. He is considered to be the first victim of the H-bomb.
Other crew members survived but many were left with long-term health problems and just like the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaski, they were stigmatised for many years. The Lucky Dragon incident galvanized anti-nuclear attitudes in Japan and a strong anti-nuclear movement. The Lucky Dragon boat was conserved in 1976 and is now on display at the Tokyo Metropolitan Daigo Fukuryū Maru Exhibition Hall.
The United Nations International Day Against Nuclear Tests is observed every year on 29th August. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2009 by unanimously adopting resolution 64/35. The resolution calls for increasing awareness “about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions and the need for their cessation as one of the means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world”. In May 2010 all state parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons committed themselves to “achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”.
Written by Kirsten Holland (Collections Volunteer)