Midway Atoll is a 2.4 square mile atoll located in the North Pacific Ocean (near the northwestern end of the Hawaiian
archipelago), about one-third of the way between Honolulu and Tokyo. Midway Atoll is an unorganized, unincorporated
territory of the United States. It is less than 161 miles east of the International Date Line. It consists of a ring-shaped barrier
reef and several sand islets. The two significant pieces of land, Sand Island and Eastern Island, provide habitat for millions of
seabirds. Midway Atoll is part of a chain of volcanic islands, atolls, and seamounts extending from Hawai up to the tip of the
Aleutian Islands and known as the Hawaii-Emperor chain.
The atoll, which has a small population of approximately 60 people, mostly from Thailand, is under the authority of the U.S.
Department of the Interior. The Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, encompassing 590,991.50 acres (2,351.19 km) of
land and water (mostly water) in the surrounding area, is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The visitor
program reopened in January 2008 and there are facilities at the present time for receiving visitors. Currently the best way to
travel to the Atoll is through organized tour companies. There is just one tour company a week and many of the tours are
cancelled because they do not make their quotas (which are limited 15 people, the capacity of the charter airplane). We went
with the Oceanic Society and highly recommend them.
Midway is best known as the location of the Battle of Midway, fought in World War II on June 4-6, 1942. However, for us the
motivation was the wildlife. Midway Atoll is now home to 67-70% of the world's Laysan Albatross population, and 34-39% of the
global black-footed albatross. While Midway supports nearly three million birds, each seabird species has carved out a specific
site on the atoll in which to nest. Seventeen different species of seabirds can be found, the rarest of which is the short-tailed
albatross, otherwise known as the “Golden Gooney.” Fewer than 2,200 are believed to exist due to excessive feather hunting
in the late nineteenth century.
The FWS has recently re-introduced the endangered Laysan duck to the Atoll, while at the same time extending efforts to
exterminate invasive plant species.
Below are links to pages with pictures from our trip. If you click the first link, there is a link at the bottom of each page for the
|Midway Atoll with Elston and Jackline Hill
March 22 to April 1, 2010
Our thanks to the Oceanic Society and Wayne for such a great trip. We had seven (ultimately nine days) of full activity. Wayne
was an outstanding guide having lived on Midway for four years.
Finally, the most exciting moment was our flight back when the right engine misbehaved 45 minutes into our return flight on a
48 year old turbo prop. We heard a bang and felt a jolt. Those on the right side watched as fire poured out of the
engine--according to their account for three minutes. The pilots donned oxygen masks and took the plane down from 18,000
feet to 10,000 feet where they maintained altitude and turned the plane around to Midway flying back to Midway on one engine.
The next day we went out to view the airplane. The pilot had taken off the covering of the engine to see if he could figure out
what had caused the engine failure. He could not figure out the problem so two engineers were flown out two days later on a
corporate jet which returned us two days late to Honolulu.