Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Snorkel Trip with Sharks

Yesterday after work we went snorkeling under the cargo pier. It was a beautiful calm day and the visibility in the water was very good. In about 4 feet of water on our swim out through the pilings we found 3 Whitetip Reef Sharks resting on the bottom. We watched them for a time and then swam slowly on out through the pilings. The fish diversity is high and we saw a seal and 2 turtles. On the way back to shore I had a 7 foot shark investigate me. It would swim toward me and then veer off and turn and come back for another look. It was a little unnerving.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New Midway Laundry

In the same area of the island where the Navy Mess Hall is located is the New Midway Laundry. As you can see from the pictures it is abandoned and far from new.

Scavenger Hunts

I occasionally get comments on my blog that send me on interesting scavenger hunts; thank you Mona & Nelson. The next few posts are all pictures that I took in a couple of hours in some of Midway's abandoned buildings, of which there are many. The pictures that accompany this post are all in and around the Navy Mess Hall which appears to have been abandoned in 2001 or 2002, based on the magazines and newsletters that I saw inside.

Fresh Water on Midway

Fresh water is not used wastefully on Midway but there is no shortage. It comes from rainwater falling on a large area of the runway that has been designed as a catchment. From there it runs into a large open pond and is then pumped into three, 5 million gallon storage tanks. That is a huge amount of storage for only 50 or 60 people but is left over from the military days when there were many more people on the island. From those tanks 2 separate water systems begin. Non-potable water is pumped partway up the water tower to supply pressure to the fire hydrants and a few other non drinking water outlets. The other system begins with water being pumped from the huge tanks to an underground concrete storage vault near our treatment plant. The water is then treated and pumped into several rubber bladders that sit on the surface of the ground and act as the pressure tanks for the potable water system. We have plenty of water for washing clothes, showering, and drinking but the taste is nothing to brag about. I miss our Feather River water at home.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Red-tailed Tropicbird

One of the regular duties that I've had since coming to Midway is monitoring 3 reproductive success plots for Red-tailed Tropicbirds. This week we had our first chicks hatch and the photos with this post show the adult sitting with a 3 day old chick under it's wing. This is a typical pose that we see when the adult is sitting with the chick. Soon both adults will be at sea at the same time and the chick will sit alone waiting for the adults to return with food.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dangerous Behavior

This chick very deliberately walked 50 yards toward the beach in 15 foot sessions while we were working on the beach this morning. When it reached the water it walked in and started paddling for Siberia. Since they don't have waterproof feathers at this point in their lives this is a deadly activity. They usually figure this out and return to shore like a wet chicken. This one kept going until I couldn't stand to watch it drown and I swam out and brought it up the beach to dry out. When we left the beach an hour later it was wandering like it was undecided about another swim.

White Tern Chick

We have had a White Tern sitting on an egg on a concrete wall behind our kitchen for quite a few weeks. The egg just hatched over the weekend and the chick is very cute. Both parents were feeding it small fish on it's first day and it would swallow 2 small fish whole. I don't understand how the parent can cover the chick so effectively, but in the picture of the adult in this post it is sitting on the chick.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Submarines at Midway

During WWII Midway was an important stopover for submarines that were active in the North Pacific. I don't know much about the operation but there are still some remnants of the infrastructure that was used to dock and provide electric power while the boats were here. The pictures show the pier where they tied up, part of the mooring setup and the power plant building where electricity was produced for the subs to plug into while visiting Midway.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I'm living in a bird colony with nearly 1.6 million seabirds so dead birds is something I've begun to expect. Usually I can keep them at arms length and it doesn't bother me too much but sometimes it does get to me. I see deaths caused by man made structures and trees that the albatross are unprepared to deal with. I see mortality in the chicks which is not unexpected but is still hard when they are birds in my plots that I've dealt with several times a week for a couple months. Today was an exception. As I was leaving lunch I saw a chick that was struggling to get out of a hole beside an electrical box and was all covered with flies. It had scraped itself up so badly scratching to get out that it's bloodied feet had attracted flies. I rescued it from the hole but it was so weak I thought it would not survive the afternoon. This evening I checked on it again and it was bright eyed and ready to do battle. It had scratched against the cement so long that it's claws were worn to nothing but it looks good otherwise. Maybe it will be one of the survivors.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hybrid Albatross

There are so many albatross here that we have seen several hybrid birds. They have one parent that is a Laysan Albatross and the other parent is a Black-footed Albatross. They come in all shades from very dark to nearly white. Albatross find mates and identify their own mates by performing very complex dances that take many years to learn.The hybrids don't successfully breed because the dance they perform is unacceptable to either the Laysan or Black-footed Albatross. The pictures that accompany this post are actually 2 separate birds but their color and configuration are very similar.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cross Point

I had a comment on my blog a couple of weeks back asking if I had seen the monument concerning Easter Sunrise. I hadn’t seen it but had a good idea where to look. There is a cross standing on “Cross Point” with a monument in front but the area is so pock marked with Petrel burrows I had never been close enough to read the monument. This morning I picked my way along the rip rap seawall and was able to get close enough to take these pictures. It seemed an appropriate day for a visit.

Kayaking off North Beach

In honor of Songkran Day we had Friday afternoon off. Steve and I took the kayaks out from North Beach and got some nice views of Laysan Albatross and the island. Captain Brooks and the Clipper House are the 2 buildings shown,

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Songkran Day

Today the whole island celebrated Songkran Day. It is a huge Thai holiday with religious roots that is a day of cleansing. Our day started with a parade with 3 floats and 2 of only 3 women on the island being named Ms. Songkran Days. They rode on one flower covered float and a female impersonator rode and danced on the other. Everyone was in the parade so the only way you could see it was to jog ahead and watch it go by and then tag on at the back. There were 4 drummers to set the cadence for the parade and we all wound our way to Captain Brooks. Once there a small religious observance was held and then the 5 or 6 oldest people on the island, including me, were seated and almost the entire Thai population walked past and blessed each of us in turn and poured water all over us. We also had our faces and shirts plastered with a clay and water mixture. I don't know the significance of all this but cleansing and purification is continually mentioned. We then went out closer to the beach and ate and drank. We had: roast pig, barbecued fish, Poke Salad, barbecued chicken gizzards, roast Turkey and sticky white rice. This was not the place for a vegetarian! There was then a tug of war between small teams that went on over and over until the best team eliminated everyone else. It was an amazing day!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Data Loggers

We have been installing data loggers on adult Laysan and Blackfooted Albatross the past 2 days. They are very small packages that mount on a field readable band and record data for up to two years. They are placed on birds that are known breeders from our reproductive success plots. Albatross have such high nest fidelity that there is a good probability that these birds will come back to the same plots in November when the reproductive cycle begins again and the data loggers can be retrieved. They have a very accurate clock on board and record first light, maximum light (noon), and last light each day. They also record temperature and have a wet/ dry sensor so the temperature can be differentiated between air temperature and water temperature when the birds are resting on the water surface. These devices don’t transmit any information but when they are retrieved the information can be downloaded and through a series of mathematical manipulations very precise locations can be computed for each day the bird was wearing the device. What is being learned is that birds from different nesting colonies are feeding in different areas of the North Pacific and that these birds travel prodigious distances to feed their chicks. As unbelievable as it sounds these Albatross have been known to travel 10,000 miles in less than a week and return to the proper island and chick to regurgitate food. It is exciting to be part of this kind of work.