Marine Conservation Biology in Hawaii

Day Four (Jan. 21) – “I can’t see anything, but it’s really exciting!”
by -- January 21st, 2011

Today was definitely an exciting day – our last day on Oahu and our arrival on Midway!

After two consecutive days of getting up early for Ka’ena Point and the fish auction, we enjoyed a leisurely morning on Oahu. The majority of the group still got up relatively early and took the bus down to Waikiki to spend the day at the beach and eat some puka dogs (hot dogs in delicious buns with tropical relish). The parents reading this blog will be happy to know that, surprisingly, there were no horrible sunburns as a result of the beach trip! A few of us hung around the East-West Center to go for a run or the gym, finish some work, and hang out on the UH Manoa campus.

Puka Dog

Puka Dog

At 2:00 pm, we checked out of the East-West Center, crammed all of our luggage into the van, waved goodbye to Yogurtland, and headed to the airport. This year, we were a bit spoiled with our plane to Midway – it was a jet with classy wood paneling and huge windows. It also made the trip in about three hours – a big improvement over the last year’s prop plane’s flight time of five hours!

 

Boarding the chartered jet

Boarding the chartered jet

 

Excited for our trip

Excited for our trip

The quick flight was filled with excited chatter about arriving on Midway. Midway is a unique spot, both in terms of its history and the environment. Midway is best known as the location of the Battle of Midway during World War II. Midway is also part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, and it is home to approximately 70% of world’s Laysan albatrosses.

 

Flight to Midway

Flight to Midway

It was dark when we touched down (hence Heather’s “I can’t see anything, but it’s really exciting!” quote) and we were met by a very welcoming group of Midway staff. We loaded ourselves onto golf carts (there are no cars here) and rode to Charlie Barracks, our new home for the next ten days.

 

Andy is so excited to arrive on Midway!

Andy is so excited to arrive on Midway!

It is difficult to express the incredible number of albatross here on Midway, but we’ll get some pictures posted tomorrow once there is daylight. On our ride to the barracks, each side of the road was filled with albatross after albatross. Some were sitting on eggs, but we also noticed a few eggs that had been abandoned. Midway has recently experienced very high winds and strong storms, which may have ruined more nests than are normally abandoned in a typical breeding season.

 

Meeting Darlene to move into our rooms in Charlie Barrack

Meeting Darlene to move into our rooms in Charlie Barrack

After meeting Darlene, who is in charge of administration here on Midway, we put our luggage into our spacious rooms and headed off into the night (and the sea of albatross) to Captain Brook’s bar. We enjoyed a few beers, some tasty pizza, and a game of Apples to Apples (is creamed corn really “flirtatious?”) and then headed home to get some rest before our first full day on Midway.

 

Delicious beverages at the Captain Brooks bar

Delicious beverages at the Captain Brooks bar

As I write this, the night air is filled with albatross calls and the clicking sound of their beaks. We are all excited to embark on the greatest adventure of our lives…

12 Comments

  1. Maureen Dunphy
    Jan 21, 2011

    Are there other types of albatross other than Laysan? If so, are all of the albatross on Midway Laysan? Or are there other kinds? If there are other kinds and they’re not on Midway, where do they live. Do albatross migrate? I know I could do a Google search, but it’s so much more fun and interesting to have the scientist in the family tell me the story. Thanks, Meagan! Love, Meagan’s mom

  2. Monica Dove
    Jan 22, 2011

    After yet another snow storm here and temps in single digits arriving this weekend, I wish I was there!! I loved the blog about your visit to the tuna auction. What an eye-opener that must have been. What fun to get to see you, Karen!!! Give those monk seals a hug for me 😉 Can’t wait to hear all about your trip. Love, Mom

  3. Megan DumphyDaly
    Jan 22, 2011

    Hi Mom! There are between 13 and 24 species of albatross in the world, and there’s a lot of debate around the actual number of species. The most commonly agreed upon number is 21, but there needs to be a lot more research to sort this out. Here on Midway there are black-footed albatross, Laysan albatross, and a brand new short-tailed albatross that just hatched in early January (the first short-tailed albatross to EVER hatch outside of Japan).

    There are a lot of Albatross in the Southern Ocean (we saw some on our trip to Antarctica!) and in the North Pacific. Albatross do not undertake an annual migration, but they do disperse widely after breeding and take very long foraging trip.

    One really cool thing about albatross is that they form long-term bonds, and once pairs mate they will stay together their whole life. Lindsey Young, who took us to Ka’ena Point, has found that there are also female-female pairs. These females are more successful than a female on her own, but less successful than a female-male pair.

    Love you!

    • Maureen Dunphy
      Jan 30, 2011

      Hi, Meagan! I can understand why two females would be more successful in raising a family than a single mother, but why are two females less successful than a female-male pair? And do you mean more successful in parenting or surviving?

      Does it have something to do with aggression from other males? If you mean successful parenting, what skills does a male contribute to the parenting process that a female doesn’t? And how much more successful are we talking here?

      Enjoy your last day on Midway, Maggie, and have a safe trip to Honolulu! Hope your meeting there goes very well! Dad and I are wishing you success and traveling mercies over the next few days, for sure.

      Much love, Mom

  4. Nick
    Jan 22, 2011

    hi meagan so glad your trip is going so well.hope your foot is feeling better also.love to see your pictures of the trip and the island.my seabee friend in wwII was a builder on some of them islands and knew right where i was talking about.we are very proud of you and your work,keep up the good job.by the way how has the weather been for you all?
    Nick

    • Megan DumphyDaly
      Jan 23, 2011

      The weather has been GREAT so far! We’ve had two very sunny, warm days. We’re supposed to have a few more days of beautiful weather before we get some rain, which is more typical of Midway at this time of year. You’d really like it here – in addition to the birds, there are all kinds of historical artifacts and memorials from WWII. We went on a tour of the island yesterday and got to see a lot of important places. I can’t wait to show you all the pictures!
      Meagan

  5. Gabriell Vires
    Jan 22, 2011

    To answer your question Meagan, yes creamed corn is flirtatious. Didn’t you know that?

  6. Maureen Dunphy
    Jan 23, 2011

    Thanks, Meagan! Does someone have a theory about WHY short-tailed albatross are suddenly on Midway this month? (Other than they knew your group was coming!) It’s most likely a good thing they’re reproducing in a second environment, but is the move a harbinger of something not so good? Would they have made the trip in flocks or just pairs? If flocks, what is a flock of albatrosses called? You know, a murder of crows, a gaggle of geese, a kettle of vultures, a host of sparrows, an exaltation of larks . . . BTW, I was trying to avoid the creamed corn question–I’m sure you were surprised that I didn’t weigh in–but, how is creamed corn flirtatious? A lemon, arugula, radishes, asparagus, even pomegranite seeds, all flirtatious, but creamed corn? Love, Mom

  7. Megan DumphyDaly
    Jan 24, 2011

    Hi Mom –

    Short-tailed albatross have been here for the past couple of years, but there hasn’t been a breeding pair until now. The Fish and Wildlife Service has put up decoys to try to get short-tailed albatrosses to come here to nest. There are even recordings playing! The chick that hatched recently, however, is the first recorded short-tailed albatross chick that has hatched anywhere outside of Japan. We got to see the chick today on Eastern Island — very cool! Also, it is especially important that they nest in areas other than the primary nesting location in Japan, since that site is around an active volcano.

    I would assume albatrosses are in a “flock,” but Andy might have another (better) suggestion.

    Remember the game “Apples to Apples?” The creamed corn reference is from that. There’s an adjective (e.g., flirtatious) and everyone has to put in a card that they think fits that adjective. The winner for flirtatious was creamed corn, mostly because it was just funny.

    Love,
    Maggie

  8. Lanette Daly
    Jan 25, 2011

    Ok, so I gotta say it Meagan. Lesbian albatross, who would have thunk it? Actually, nature is so cool, isn’t it?

    Lots of love, Auntie Lanny

  9. Nick
    Jan 28, 2011

    Meagan, looking forward to the pictures, so glad your doing good and everything is going well.wish i knew before hand that you went to Pearl,we have family on the memory. we really enjoy reading about you and all the people that works there.

    see you soon.nick

  10. Thomas
    Jan 28, 2011

    Just caught up, enjoyable and educational too, keep up making me envious. :O) xx

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