The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Midway Atoll part 3)

Midway, atoll, spinner, dolphins, NOAA, marine, debris, removal, island, ocean, sea, beach, Pacific

All of us got into marine biology because we loved the ocean.  To most of us, the ocean is the most beautiful thing in the universe.  Growing up watching the Jacques Cousteau documentaries instilled in me the most profound sense of wonder towards the ocean.  Episode after episode, the Cousteau expeditions would take me to new, remote and wonderful places of the world.  At the young age of 10 I decided I wanted to study marine biology.  I have since dreamt of someday making my own documentaries to instill that same passion for the natural world that Jacques planted in me.

Midway, atoll, spinner, dolphins, NOAA, marine, debris, removal, island, ocean, sea, beach, Pacific

Being on Midway gave me the impression of living in a wildlife documentary.  The amount of animals that we would see and interact with was unreal.

Midway, atoll, spinner, dolphins, NOAA, marine, debris, removal, island, ocean, sea, beach, Pacific

As we got into a rhythm, I was afraid that the magic of this place would begin to wear off.  But it never did.  Every time we saw those dolphins greet us, it would make me feel like a little kid again.

Midway, atoll, Monk, seal, North western hawaiian Islands, hawaii, NOAA, marine, debris, removal, island, ocean, sea, beach, Pacific

The sheer diversity of large animals was remarkable.  Monk seals were ubiquitous around these sandy islands and would often come to investigate our work.

Midway, atoll, helping, albatross, chick, baby, North western hawaiian Islands, hawaii, NOAA, marine, debris, removal, island, ocean, sea, beach, Pacific

On several occasions, as we were cleaning up beaches around the island, we would spot albatross chicks which had recently fallen off of a steep sand bank.  Without help they would remain stuck down there, until the rising tide would come up and wash them out to deeper water (where they become easy prey).

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We would carefully hold the chicks wings together and lift them back to their resting spots.  It was important to be quick but gentle to reduce the amount of stress to the animal.  Stressed chicks could hit us with a variety ejections…  Chick puke was the worst though.  Just imagine, these juvenile birds eat regurgitated fish.  The fish, which has been digesting for days in their stomachs can be shot out as a viscous but oily liquid that emits a horrendous smell.

Midway, atoll, Monk, seal, North western hawaiian Islands, hawaii, NOAA, marine, debris, removal, island, ocean, sea, beach, Pacific, mom, pup

As we were eating lunch by our boats, a mom and pup pair swam right by us.

Midway, atoll, Monk, seal, North western hawaiian Islands, hawaii, NOAA, marine, debris, removal, island, ocean, sea, beach, Pacific, mom, pup, zodiac

There attention was fully on our zodiacs though, so much so that they never even noticed us right behind them.  Mothers can be quite territorial when they have a pup to protect.  She started growling and barking at our zodiacs.  She was convinced that these boats were up to no good.  Luckily she never bit our little inflatable boats…

Midway, atoll, Monk, seal, North western hawaiian Islands, hawaii, NOAA, marine, debris, removal, island, ocean, sea, beach, Pacific, mom, pup, zodiac

After a few more intimidating vocalizations (which were mimicked by her pup), she decided that there was nothing to fear and calmed down.  Those few moments were the closest I had ever gotten to a mom and pup monk seal. It was a pretty amazing scene to behold.

Midway, atoll, spinner, dolphins, NOAA, marine, debris, removal, island, ocean, sea, beach, Pacific

After the monk seals finally left, we were able to resume to loading of trash bags onto the boats.  As we left Eastern Island to head back home to Sand Island, we were again greeted by our gang of dolphins.  They just seemed to love taking us back to the harbor.

Midway, atoll, spinner, dolphins, NOAA, marine, debris, removal, island, ocean, sea, beach, Pacific

Our group took it as a sign that nature was well pleased with our work.  I gotta say, it was nearly impossible to have a bad day out there.  This was the best job in the world!

Stay tuned for more, as I explore the island for Wold War II artifacts. Also, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my adventure!

0 thoughts on “The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Midway Atoll part 3)

  1. Jenny Stephens July 8, 2016 / 2:01 pm

    Wow! What amazing dolphin photos! Looks like a beautiful area 🙂

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