Marine Conservation Biology in Hawaii

Day Four (1/16/08) – Touchdown at Midway, Home of the Birds
by -- January 18th, 2008

Even arriving on Midway in darkness, we were overwhelmed by the expanse of albatrosses and the hints of the amazing sites we could expect to see in the light of the next day.

Airplane

Airplane

Today we left for Midway.  At 3 p.m., the flight took off and we were on our way.  Each of us was excited for what we knew was to come.  The chartered flight took 4 hours and 45 minutes, putting us at Midway after the sunset.  During the landing, we were all staring out the window, trying to get our first looks at Sand Island and the birds.  It did not take long after getting on the ground to spot our first albatrosses; then when we got off the plane, we were overwhelmed by the endless expanse of birds.

After stamping our passports into Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, we piled into golf carts which took us to the barracks that we will be staying in the rest of our time here.  In that short ride, we were blown away by the number of birds we saw.  Everywhere you looked, there was an albatross sitting on a nest, walking around, or practicing a mating dance with another bird.  The most amazing part was not the substantial number of albatrosses that we saw, but their indifference to our presence was astounding.  We moved out of the birds’ way.

Albatross

Albatross

There are few places that you can travel to anymore that have not been disturbed by the presence of humans.  Here, the birds are the dominant species; they control the environment and the ecosystem.  In places where there is adequate nesting habitat, the albatrosses and petrels cover the ground.  Every three to four feet, there is a nest.  With 450,000 pairs of albatross and thousands of other birds nesting on Midway every year, there are few places where these birds do not nest.  We are all anxious for what we will see in the morning.

After settling into our rooms, our night would not have been complete without a trip to Captain Brooks, the local hangout on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night.  Situated near the beach, we were again blown away by the scenery before us.  Even though it was pitch black outside, the moon gave enough light for us to see the turquoise waters of the lagoon.  The light also hinted at a white sand beach and the views we could expect the next day.  After meeting many of the residents of Midway, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife personnel, firefighters and others, we headed back to the barracks for the night.  So begins our journey on Midway Atoll.

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