National Geographic : 1946 Jul
Farewell to Bikini thing twice for the benefit of the sound camera. While helping to pick up mike cable after the ceremony, I noticed one of the younger men in an earnest conversation with Jimmy, which, from their gestures, seemed to involve me. Investigation disclosed that Laiboei wished Jimmy to ask me if I had enough film to spare for a shot of himself and family at the grave of his sister. We all moved down the shore to the grave where they grouped around the headstone and I made my shots (page 116). In the usual rush there wasn't time to go into the reason for the request, but the ex pressions on the faces of that family were so sincere that I suddenly found there was an unusual amount of dust in the air. Duck Serves as Moving Van About noon of March 6 the natives began loading their possessions aboard the 1108. The Sumner's Duck went into the village and returned with a strange assortment of boxes, bags, and bundles from which protruded all sorts of household gear. The top of each load was covered with at least a dozen naked and grinning brown boys, all having the time of their lives. Until now they had been kept off the Duck to prevent accidents. The Duck was driven up the ramp into the tank deck and unloaded there. Each succeed ing load brought more strange articles which had not been in evidence when we were work ing around the village. Several loads of dried palm and pandanus leaves for home building on Rongerik were followed by a ton or so of palm matting and a whole load of corrugated sheet iron, salvaged from the rain-catching racks to be re-used for the same purpose. Moving went on until almost dark without filling more than a small part of the cavernous tank deck or greatly reducing the piles on the beach. On one return trip the Duck took ashore numerous cases of K rations, which were dis tributed to each family according to need. These cases are put together to stand the roughest kind of handling and the rigors of tropical heat and rain and are almost im possible to open without either a crowbar or dynamite. The villagers had neither, but the outer cases stopped them for only a few moments (page 112). The watertight cardboard and foil wrap pings of the individual packages were more difficult, and their exertions over them were good material for the motion-picture cameras. In the haste to open the packages, some of the keys for opening the cans inside were lost in the coral. This worried no one for longer than it took one of the boys to discover that he could peel the ribbon out of the cans with his teeth. They all tried it with more or less success, to the delight of the assembled cameramen. They had seen the candy packages before and made short work of them and their con tents, but the little cellophane packages of lemon powder were something else. Jimmy finally got the idea across by telling them that the powder would taste somewhat like lime juice when mixed with water. It was the best we could do, because Jimmy had never seen a lemon, either. By dark the entire village was strewn with discarded K-ration wrappers of all kinds and a lot of unopened envelopes of the lemon powder. Apparently, they cared even less for it than most of us did. During the day, we of the motion-picture crew had moved our gear from the Sumner and were to spend the next two days and nights aboard the LST 1108. After the nightly session of cleaning and checking cameras and typing picture and sound dope sheets, we gathered on the bow ramp to watch the officers and the natives hunting hermit crabs on the beach. Officers wanted them for fish bait and the natives wanted them for food. Early Thursday morning the rest of the islanders' belongings were brought aboard, and the crew of the LST hoisted the outrigger canoes over the side and made them secure on the main deck. About 2 P. M. the last of the natives came aboard, and the crew started preparations for getting off the beach with the tide. Battle of the Aerosol Bombs When the tank ramp and bow doors had been closed and secured, the bos'n's mates started issuing aerosol bombs, those wonder ful dispensers of sudden death to insects. The brown children learned to operate the bombs immediately and quickly developed a new use for them. Soon the enclosed deck was swarm ing with children, each with a bomb and trying to catch his companions from behind with the spray. The air became cloudy with the vaporized poison, and if there was a fly or any other insect left alive, it wasn't their fault. The only pest we found on Bikini was a swarm of what looked like common houseflies, many of which had come aboard with the native gear.