Midway Atoll- here you can see Sand and behind it Eastern Islands. Eastern Island is uninhabited. Sand Island is pretty much an airport surrounded by a beach. You can see part of the extensive reef and lagoon
My first glimpse of Midway was at night, from the air. My first thought was "this big plane isn't going to fit on this tiny island!" as the 737 circled while workers finished clearing the runway. The others had flown out by Gulfstream or Lear Jet, but this was a commercial airliner.
As we made a last low circle, I could make out grass and sand, trees and some buildings, and a dump truck.... wow this is small, that truck looks like it can barely turn around. The every inch of the island was covered with scattered, white rocks, lit up by the landing lights. This was going to be a strange month!
After landing and bumping to a parking are by the runway, the doors were opened and the familiar wave of heavy, humid tropical air displaced the air conditioning.
Midway is of course famous for it's population of Laysan albatross "Gooney-birds" - three quarters of a million on an island only a kilometer by a half kilometer...
Heading down the stairs, the air was filled with an overwhelming chorus of honks and rattles and squeaks... the rocks were moving... they were birds! Moving back to reclaim the edges of the runway.
Nothing can prepare you for Midway. I'd been studying the island for 5 years from California, and I knew there was a big albatross colony, but this was ridiculous! There were pairs of Laysan albatross, no smaller than a turkey, with an 8-foot wingspan, scattered at about 2 meter spacing on every inch of the ground. As we walked towards the sleeping barracks they were on the roads, on lawns, around houses, anywhere there was open ground there was a huge, noisy albatross!
I learned to love the albatross. The were just ubiquitous. Moving around the island you'd weave between them.
Goonies on the beach...
They don't sleep so 24 hours they call and click and honk. The chicks are stationary, but the parents would take turns heading out to sea to gather food. These are amazing fliers- radio tracked birds have headed out, flown as far as the California coast, thousands of miles away to gather mostly flying fish eggs and fish in their stomachs, then glide back to the tiny speck of an island, find their particular chick out of the hundreds of thousands, then head back out. When they return, they spend hours "dancing" with their mate, re-bonding. Heads in the air, they endlessly wave back and forth, clattering their beaks, honking, and circling each other. After a couple hours of this they rest, then start again. Actually, in between they defend their 6-foot space, dancing with neighbors to keep them back. They can live as long as a person, and mate for life. Some birds show scars from the battles of WWII on the island. It took a long time after leaving the island to get used to them not surrounding me day and night. The world seems so empty around you without them.