Saturday, March 12, 2011

Midway Tsunami Pictures

Here's some pictures from the tsunami. It's late here, so I'll write the text when I get up tomorrow. Thanks for your comments everyone! It's great to see that so many of you are thinking of us out here.
OK, here's the text:
It's been a long couple of days here on Midway. Starting out with the preparation for the tsunami, on Thursday night. We moved most of the vehicles, heavy equipment, and our big safeboat up to Radar Hill, which is our highest area here. After that, we all evacuated to the 3rd floor of "Charlie Barracks" where we waited to see if anything happened. This is the first time I'm glad I wasn't able to move into my house yet, since I am currently living on the 3rd floor already. We had all 67 island employees/visitors up here watching the news on BBC and watching our tide gauge data over the internet. We saw that we had about a 5 foot rise in the tide gauge level, but were glad that we couldn't see any water when we looked out the windows.

After looking at a bit of the washover on Sand Island, and setting a crew to work on digging albatross chicks and petrels out of the debris, Greg and I took the boat over to Eastern Island. On the way, we passed thousands of albatross adults and petrels that had been washed into the water and lost their ability to stay dry. Their feathers were messed up by being tumbled over the island and through the vegetation. We pulled some into the boat, but needed to get to Eastern Island, so we had to hope that most of them would paddle to shore.

Eastern Island was mostly washed over, so 10's of thousands of chicks were washed away. I'll have to look at our count numbers from Dec. to figure out how many chicks were in the affected areas. There were dead fish by the hundreds up in the middle of the island. The short-tailed albatross chick must really be wondering what kind of place it lives in because it was washed away from the nest for the second time this year already. This time, it was about 40 yards away from the original nest. It was easy to spot because all the other chicks were washed away in a previous storm. I didn't want to pick the chick up, because it was already stressed and upset, but the parents may not have found it that far from the nest. I put out a sheet of plastic and when it stepped onto it, I gave it a sled ride the 40 yards back to its nest. I hope that's all the excitement that it has for the rest of the season.

There were a lot of chicks and adults buried in debris (mostly dead vegetation). Greg and I were digging out stuck birds all day. We took our volunteers and some people from the visitors group over yesterday and dug out another hundred or so birds. We also found 2 turtles that were washed quite a way up onto the island, which were then carried back to the beach and seemed glad to get back in the water. At least we didn't find any injured Hawaiian monk seals or Laysan ducks. The seals were back resting on the beaches on Friday.
Although we lost a lot of wildlife, all of the people who are here because of the wildlife are safe.
The 3rd floor of Charlie Barracks wasn't the most comfortable place for 67 people. But it was safe.
The boat dock in the harbor has finally seen its last days.

Water washed pretty high near the cargo pier, and hopefully this little Laysan albatross chick will get fed and be able to preen that mud off.

A piece of the pier on Eastern Island washed up onto the gun.

Two of the visitors brought one of the turtles back to the beach on Eastern Island. Thanks Anna and Connie.

This was the biggest fish that I saw washed up on the beach. It is an Ulua (Giant trevally) that is about 3 ft long. There were at least 15 different species of fish on the island.

Here is where the short-tailed albatross chick ended up. It's a tough little bird.

The chicks and adults got washed up into big piles of dead vegetion.

There's no way to know how many bonin petrels were trapped in their burrows. We saved this one, since its head was still sticking out.

There are two Laysan albatross chicks and one adult stuck in this pile. We got them all out.

I could have taken hundreds more of these pictures, but I wanted to concentrate on digging them out.

All of these chicks would have been washed into the harbor had the naupaka bushes not been there to seine them out.

The debris formed a little island in the lagoon. Too bad the birds couldn't climb up on much.

One red-footed booby found something to stand on. The rest of the birds will have to swim for shore.

These 2 have about given up. We pulled them into the boat and put them on Eastern Island. It'll take a couple of days to dry out though.

Here are 5 Laysan albatrosses and one Bonin petrel that we brought to Eastern.

73 comments:

Tricia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tricia said...

I am glad to hear that you all are well and safe. I hope you all were able to save some of the birds and they make it to fledging. I hope the staff at Laysan are well and safe as well. I still miss the islands from my time there.

- Tricia

Forest and Kim said...

Wow, that's harsh. Thanks for the update, and for doing what you can to clean that place up...

Barb said...

INCREDIBLE! This is bad enough; glad the tsunami didn't happen earlier in the season, when there would have been more adult albatrosses on the ground.

Tanya said...

It looks like you need a lot of extra volunteers, so many alive and trapped.

Audrey said...

Thank you so much for your updates at Midway. Glad to hear that everyone is safe. So sad to hear of the loss of wildlife. It's reassuring to know there are people working as hard as they are to save as many birds/animals as possible. I so wish I could help in someway. Is there a way anyone from the mainland can help? Donations?

Kate said...

You guys are heros! I worked at Pearl and Hermes in 1995 and stopped over at Midway - I know what a special place it is. Glad you are all safe.

Emily Chartrand said...

Hi Pete

I will be coming to Midway in 8 days with Chris Jordan and his team. The pictures and your update were really informative. Thank you very much for the information. I'm really looking forward to meeting you and everyone on the island.

Emily

Greg siekaniec said...

Pete,
Thank you for posting information on both the safety and well being of coworkers and the status of wildlife. Good luck with your conservation efforts and repairs.

Greg siekaniec

Vernon said...

Pete,
Thanks for the pictures and the information. Stay safe and let me know what you need.
Ray Born

sue said...

thanks for the update and the pics - so glad you had help to dig out the birds

Nicole said...

Hi Pete,
So Short Stack gets washed away for a second time and still prevails? He's tough chick, I was worried! I'm glad you are all ok. It looks like LOT of work ahead. See you soon. Thanks for such a detailed update.

Nikki

Susan said...

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Pete Leary said...

Thanks for all the comments. It's great to hear from all of you.

Brent N. said...

Pete, those pictures of the Petrels and chicks stuck in the mud are really heart breaking. I'm glad everyone is safe, and was doing as much as they could for the poor birds and turtles. I hope you're doing well.

Perry's in Paradise said...

Thanks for the update Pete! Glad you are all ok. Good luck with the clean-up. You are going to be even busier than usual.

Bei Bei said...

Hi, a friend shared the link to your blog on facebook, I just want to say thanks for the updates and those wonderful photos, they really brought tears to my eyes. Your post is so inspiring and I believe it has touched many people's hearts. All the warm efforts for saving the wildlife will be well worth it.
<3
Bettie

compassrosa said...

Great work saving what animals you can. Thanks for the pictures and the information.

slune said...

The pictures are bad. Hopefully the salt water took care of some verbesina...

AnnMarie_Chapman said...

Are you guys preparing for any aftershocks? Local media stateside is reporting a 70% chance of a strong (8+) aftershock. Curious to know if there's anything you can do to prepare. Glad to hear y'all are safe.

Hugh said...

Thank you for providing these details during what must be a very hectic and trying time. I work at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and I have posted a story on our blog pointing to this site. You're doing a great service for people who are interested in birds and bird conservation.

Gunilla Sweden said...

Thank you everybody on Midway for the good job you do. I am happy that the persons are safe, but I feel sorry for the birds.
Gunilla, Sweden

dkelvey said...

Hi
I was on Midway close to when they shut operations down. I was only there for about 4 months. I recall there were a lot of fairy and sooty turns. There were boobies
and tropic birds.
I was wondering how they did as well.
I spent time on both Eastern and Sand. We called Eastern Island Spit when I was there.
Dwight

Johnny said...

Pete,

I'm sorry to hear this aweful news, but thanks for sharing and thanks to you and everyone there for all you are doing. I will share the news with everyone here at the Smithsonian where I work.
Keep us posted.

Best,
Johnny

John Gibbons
Press Secretary for Science
The Smithsonian Institution

Jim and Nancy Johnson said...

From a past resident and visitor who now lives in Portland, Oregon: We've been so worried about all of you and, consequently, really appreciated your comments and photos. Thank you for taking the time to label everything. Best wishes to all who are there guarding and salvaging what they can of our special paradise.

fototaker said...

thanks for the news and the terrific images. yes, i've been to an oil-spill and one learns quickly: you can't take action and snap away at the same time. hoping life returns quickly and you all are forgotten (again) soon. take care and give one of those birds a hug for me!!

David said...

Thanks for your efforts on one of the most memorable of the many islands I have visited over the years. Great Job!
Dave Robinson (visitor '70/'73) courtesy of USN

The Marler Mix said...

You can't imagine how useful your blog is for those of us who have been past residents and wondered how much damage the tsunami did. Grateful to know the "coral reef" theory around Midway minimized the tsunami damage on Sand Island. Very sad to hear about the wildlife, especially on Eastern. Keep up the good work, and thanks so much.--Linda Campbell http://home.comcast.net/~k7aty/MidwayIsland/

Anonymous said...

sure glad the golden is O K and the rest of you, Now you know why the little sand box of Midway has seawalls,extentions,TREES that are now gone and the dump to help keep the island in place if not for the Navy the island would be gone just from large storms that wash over not a tsunami. Take note..it would not have the land mass to suport the birds
Bill Carrington

romancandle said...

Pete,

Thanks for your hard work and dedication. We all love these birds, even if it is from thousands of miles away.

I have a question: why didn't the adults fly off when they (presumably) saw/heard the water coming up? Was it dark at the time?

Thanks again. Take care and good luck to you and the wildlife of Midway.

Andy W said...

you guys are heroes, thanks for saving as many birds as you could.

Allezw said...

The tsunami of before dawn March, 1957 also washed far into Sand, and Eastern, disrupting the construction underway on Sand for the Barrier Flights.

None of the buildings were damaged, simply surrounded by wet sand and puddles. It did flood the underground power station and the big Cat emergency diesel generator, underground behind the enlisted beach. The compartment was filled with debris and dead birds, albatross and the moaning birds.

In the fields, the burrowing birds were either drowned or buried by the water flow.

The interim power plant cooling water supply, a 12" diameter pipe located next to the seawall at the SAR Hangar's sea plane ramps, was separated and had sections moved a hundred yards inland when the water came over the sea wall.

This temporary supply became necessary when the runway extension dredged fill covered the original inlet.

We had to run the emergency fire pump to provide cooling water to the Worthington Diesel generator sets in the power house through the backup supply from the island's fire main system. It ran continuously for a couple of weeks until the cooling water supply pipe was returned to its original location and reconnected.

The dock at the old sub base was already in disrepair when I was on the island with the USN, 6-56 to 8-57. Most of it was gone when I returned with UH-Hilo May-June 2000.

Reading about the problems on Midwayh really irks me. The Navy and the birds did very well together, save for the bird strikes, for decades.

Since FWS has taken over, it is a taxpayer sink hole with millions spent annually.

The Battle of Midway monuments are marginally acknowledged and access to them by the general public is more difficult and expensive than visiting Scott-Amundsen Station at the south pole.

I still have no answer how FWS was able to create the seeps for the Laysen ducks when the island's brackish water system, the only water available, is used as the primary sewage treatment zone. In other words, a cesspool!

No wonder we witnessed the avian botulism outbreak that killed the alien transplant Laysen ducks.

Wayne L. White:

Then - MR1 USN Public Works Department USNS #3080
Box 18 FPO San Francisco, California

Todd said...

Thanks for doing all you can in the wake of this disaster. You and the crew are a dedicated bunch Pete.

outwalkingthedog said...

A powerful and moving post. Thank you for writing it. So glad all the people are safe, and hoping the wildlife can rebound.

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing and updating us. i was on kure in 2002........under normal circumstances. i can just imagine (or not?) how midway was affected.
keep up the good work :)
aloha! stephanie

John S. Mead said...

Thanks for this post... Here in the states we hear almost nothing about wildlife affected by the quake/tsunami. This was eye opening & sobering. I'm very glad you are there to do the hard work of helping to save these birds. Kudos to you!

Carla said...

Pete,
Thank you for all you are doing out there. It must be heart breaking, but the birds are fortunate to have you there. There is much work to do....
Carla Stanley USFWS, Homer Alaska

Carla said...

Pete,
Thank you for all you are doing out there. It must be heart breaking, but the birds are fortunate to have you there. There is much work to do....
Carla Stanley USFWS, Homer Alaska

Carla said...

Pete,
Thank you for all you are doing out there. It must be heart breaking, but the birds are fortunate to have you there. There is much work to do....

Carla Stanley USFWS, Homer Alaska

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks for sharing the information, and for helping the birds. Stay safe.

Anonymous said...

we grieve for your human "friends" who were impacted by the earthquake and the tsunami....now we greive for our beloved birds. Thanks to those who saved a few. Blessed be to all....

Anonymous said...

I have so many fond memories of Midway and the eighteen months I spent there during the Korean War. I am so glad that you all are there to take care of and watch over the incredible flora and fauna on the island.

Cindy Mead said...

thank you seems like such a small word, but thank you!!

Nicole said...

As Cindy said: Thank you all!

Hilke Breder said...

Pete, thanks for your report and photos. Did Welcome's chick survived too?

Bethan said...

Oh my god, I didn't even think about wildlife and yet I am a huge supporter - thank you so much for bringing this to our attention and thank you for your hard work and great efforts to help.

Ole Friis Larsen said...

Pete, I wrote a story a few days ago for BirdLife Denmarks website about the 60 years old Laysan Albatross Wisdom breeding on Sand Island. Now I want to write a story based on you blog about what the tsunami did to all the birds. Is it possible, I could use a few of your pictures? Will you mail them for me?
Best wishes, Ole Friis Larsen, BirdLife Denmark/DOF
mail to: ofl@mail.tele.dk

Lupe said...

Thanks Pete, I have been searching for word about how well Midway did through this horrible disaster. I was a former Intern at Midway in 1988 and wish of being there often. Your blog brought me back to the beautiful sounds and sights of the island, as well as the devastation of such a special place. I am glad to here you are all safe, and I thank you for all your help in preserving such a fond memory for me. Please scratch an albatross behind the head for me! I used to love preening the adults who were accustomed to us, it was nice to see them bend their fabulous necks for more affection. Stay safe. Peace.
-Lupe

Heather said...

THANK YOU for your work at Midway. The images are really moving.

Barbara Victoria said...

So glad everyone is ok but sad about the bird population. Thanks for posting so quickly. (former Mitsubishi volunteer).

Shoe said...

Whew! I was sweatin' for y'all when I heard about the tsunami. Glad the humans are OK and am really bummed about the birds.Wish I was there to help dig out. Thanks for the update.

RunnerBecky said...

So glad to hear everyone is okay! I was thinking about Midway a lot last week. Sorry to hear about the bird population, but glad you were able to save so many. Sending positive thoughts to Midway!

-Becky (previous Mitsubishi volunteer)

Dunn said...

Found my way here via cnn comment on a story. I'm glad you and your crew where there to lend a hand.

Anonymous said...

We here in Anchorage, Alaska are glad to here you are all OK. The company I work for spent 5 years reworking all the infrastructure on the island. We hope that our design held up and that you all still are living a regular life. It is however a tragic time for the bird life on the islands. We hope that the chicks will be able to find the moms and dads.

Raymond

mrghi said...

Thanks, everyone at Midway Atoll for all your efforts to help the animals. I'm glad you were all safe in Charlie Barracks! It's a sad time for everone affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

ron hirschi said...

Thanks Pete.......I will share your photos and notes with kids around the planet. They will be asking what they can do to help, so if there is something specific, let me know. In the meantime, I try best I can to share what I learned from John K and from being on Midway......Please know that what you are doing means a whole heck of a lot to many young people. Just letting them know what is happening helps them to take small steps to protect their own local waters.

Sadly, we seem to have to see sadness to do something to help the ocean and distant kinds of habitats like Pihemanu. All Best, Ron Hirschi, Project SOAR (Save Our Albatross/Research), a project started by kids in the middle of Ohio who learned I was headed to Midway in 2009........ya might get a kick out of their song on youtube, so click on http://soaronhirschi.blogspot.com and go back a couple posts to listen to Evelyn and her friends to see kids who care.

Oxonbirder said...

Excellent work guys!

Teri and the cats of Curlz and Swirlz said...

I found your blog via Birdchick and your dedication and effort truly warms a sad heart. The blogosphere is a wonderful place, as it can educate and uplift,even in times of great sadness...

marywd said...

MANY THANKS FOR ALL YOUR WORK at Midway -- before, during, and after... Wishing you and all species there the best possible recovery.

Pete Woodruff said...

There's a million things to say about this post and accompanying illustrations but space won't allow, but in just four words....truly amazing and caring in the face of adversity.

Morlene said...

Thanks so much for the posting and photos; I checked for news the day of the tsunami and found only the buoy readings.
Midway was my favorite post as a Navy brat. We rode out a night-time "tidal wave" there, must have been early 1965. We couldn't all spend the night on the hill so we were told to sleep upstairs in our former-barracks townhouses ("Splinterville").
Thanks for caring for the birds -- my beloved fairy terns, bosun birds, boobies, goonies, frigate birds, and more. I hope I will be able to return someday, and thanks to your efforts I would be able to see my birds again.

Morlene Midway 1964-65

Kristin said...

Hi, Pete -

We've been sharing all the Midway tsunami stories we can find between our little Midway expatriates group here in Santa Cruz and were so glad to find so much detail in your story. Can't believe you gave the short-tailed albatross a sled ride!! So sad that so many birds died and were swept out to sea. Also said that our boat dock is gone! Must have been quite an adventure too!

We're starting to plan for this summer and are looking forward to seeing you again!! BTW, is John Klavitter still the only real long-term management there? Or is there a new manager? I can't figure it out from the FWS website and haven't really kept in touch well with anyone there recently.

See you soon!

Kristin

Brook said...

Another former resident here, thankful for your posts and really feeling for y'all out there. Can't quite find the right words...
I trust you'll reach out if we can help in any way.

Anonymous said...

A terrible loss and no doubt a warning for the future as sea levels rise. Thanks for the wonderful rescue photos.
Kim

Anonymous said...

Mahalo, thank you, for your post Pete. I will share your photos with my students who are studying seabirds that nest on Kaua`i. They recently visited Kilauea Point. After the tsunami they asked about the status of birds further up the archipelago. I really didn't know until I read your post.
Aloha,
Sabra Kauka
Hawaiian Studies Teacher
Island School, Kaua`i

Lynne said...

The Oregonian printed your address and a couple paragraphs about the effects of the tsunami on the atoll, which I remember from a Cousteau video. Thanks to all who were on hand to help the critters. I understand about the birds taking time to dry out -- my dog takes a couple days to dry out after a bath, too, and doesn't like hairdryers any more than I imagine an albatross would!
Really glad to hear the seals are ok -- I'm a major pinniped fan.

Louise said...

How did the oldest-known nesting albatross fare in the tsunami? Just wondering if she and her nest survived.

Ultrasonic Skin Scrubber said...

those pictures of the Petrels and chicks stuck in the mud are really heart breaking

Anonymous said...

My lasting memories as a lawyer on Midway in the early 1960s was of the avian life and its diversity. A number of species have been mentioned but not my favorite fairy terns and the sooty terns that would dive-bomb our dog as we walked the beaches seeking glass fish-net floats that washed into the lagoon; are there terns there now? I still have my "baby gooney" drawing done then by Lou Dobbs.

I also have some not-so-pleasant memories of prosecuting a few sailors for abusing the gooneys' mandibles and feet and in other, not so pleasant ways. It wasn't too plesant either when the babies first started to fly and "shark patrols" had to be set up in the lagoon. I later became an Interior employee and can appreciate the job that FWS does now to preserve the islands and their non-human inhabitants with what I suspect are inadequate resources.

One of the comments mentioned "the hill." I wonder if that is what remains of the "watch area" that a golf-playing Seabee officer put at one end of the 250-yard-long "fire-break" he had cleared of Austrailian ironwood trees.

Bravo Zulu to you Pete and for everyone else over the intervening years who have done so much for Midway.

Anonymous said...

We were on Midway in Dec. 2008. At that time a couple in our group dug up the pygmy sperm whale skeleton. The body had washed up a year before and had been buried to preserve the skeleton and eliminate everything else. Has it been reassembled and/or better identified? The couple who dug it up specialized in human anatomy, so they knew mammalian basics, but nothing specific about whales. They concluded that it was one of the very small types and probably juvenile, because of the degree of fusion that had not happened in some of the bones. There was no one there who specialized in whales, so I'm curious about any further research on the skeleton. I notice that you have found a small whale skeleton recently. Is it the same or a different species?

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment said...

You have some incredible pictures there. I would love to see it with my own eyes but must be so hard to witness at the same time.

Joy Dog: Homemade Recipes for Healthy, Pampered Pups and Companions said...

So heartbreaking, Pete. Such a bad year.

Anonymous said...

So heartbreaking, Pete. Such a bad year.