Saturday, June 30, 2007

4th of July

I think there's something weird with our time zone out here. Being so close to the international date line is really messing with our calendar. Last Saturday we celebrated Father's Day and today we celebrated the 4th of July. We did all the traditional things for the fourth such as a BBQ, volleyball, lit sparklers (no real fireworks on the island), and coconut bowling. It was a pretty good time. The volleyball gets interupted all the time since the albatross like to wander across the court about 5 or 6 times a game. Today we saw a shark while we were swimming but it was only about 2 1/2 feet long so were weren't too worried. At least I'm getting enough of a tan now to not get sunburned all the time.

Here's the coconut bowling. We just took some pins from the real bowling lane.

Friday, June 29, 2007

I Hate Wasps

Friday was chainsaw day as usual. It started out pouring rain again, also like usual but then cleared up. Every time we go cut down the ironwoods, someone gets stung by wasps and today it was my turn (one of the volunteers also got stung but he can write on his own blog!). The wasps are also an invasive species but we aern't trying to eradicate them from the island yet since they only have "Nuisance" status right now. Tonight another plane is coming in so I hope my packages of stuff that I need will fit on this plane. The last plane didn't have room for mail and some people have been waiting 3 weeks for mail, but the planes are too full. Just one of the things about being 1200 miles from civilization I guess. I didn't get out to take pictures today, but since I've taken about 6,700 pictures so far, I'll dig in my archives for a few.
A Red-footed Booby nesting in the Sea grape tree on Eastern Island.

A Red-footed Booby chick on the other Sea grape tree on Eastern Island. These aren't quite as cute as the White terns or the Red-tailed tropic birds.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

More Rain

It's raining again. So no spraying at all today. I just did inside work like Gov't online training and chainsaw sharpening. The birds look like they are sick of the rain too (although many of them die of dehydration if it's hot). Short post tonight since I don't want to be too boring .

These Laysan albatross chicks look pretty pathetic in the rain.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Plane Night

The night the planes come in is a big night on Midway since that's why most of the people are on this island (to maintain the airfield). Tonight's flight brought a construction crew to build a new airport building. People also go to say goodbye to anyone leaving the island, plus it's when the mail comes.

Earlier today a couple of us went to Spit Island and Eastern Island. Greg and I went to spray verbesina, Leona went to count monk seals, and Jimmy went to check the Laysan ducks. It's a nice little boat ride that only takes a few minutes. Here's a few pictures from over there.

Here's some Laysan ducks which were just hatched a month or two ago. Laysan ducks are on the critically endangered list since they only exist on Laysan Island and Midway. They were brought to Midway in case a catastrophe happens on Laysan Island. The population was down to between 7 and 11 birds in 1911.

Here's a Sooty tern watching its egg.

Here's Greg being followed by a couple hundred Sooty terns to make sure he doesn't squash the eggs they laid on the old runway.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


It won't be too long before the albatrosses start leaving. It's kind of funny now because fewer adults are coming back to feed the chicks so whenever one comes, a bunch of chicks run over and try to get fed. The parents know which chick is theirs so the others don't get free handouts. Most of the Bonin petrels are gone now too. It's nice because they've dug holes all over the island and when you step near a hole, it caves in and you have to dig it out quick before the petrel suffocates. Some of them are so deep that you can fall in up to your hip because the sand is so soft.

Tonight the weather was finally nice enough to move out of the gym and play volleyball at the beach. The court is right outside the tavern so it's a nice meeting place. I took a record low for pictures today, only 48. So here's 2 of them.

Sunset at Capt. Brooks' Tavern. The volleyball court is off screen to the right.

Another white tern chick. These little guys are fun to take pictures of, especially when they try to look scary to chase you off.

Monday, June 25, 2007


It was another day of work. I had to clean up and sharpen the chainsaws for this Friday. I also got to spray another bunch of verbesina. It's pretty hard to see that I'm making a difference since there's so much of it around. The weather stayed nice all day until a big shower at dinner. I'll quit boring you with details and just give you a couple more pictures to give you something to look at.

Here's one of the Brown Noddies. Like I told you before, there's not too much difference between these and the Black Noddies.

Can you see why they call this "Turtle Beach"? A couple seals, albatrosses, and debris keep them company.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

No rain

No rain today for the first time in 2 weeks. We all took advantage and went to the cargo pier for some swimming. We saw a couple dozen spinner dolphins from the pier (for those of you who haven't heard of them, they like to jump and spin around, hence the name). So those are the pictures you'll get today. The weather was beautiful, sunny and we had a nice breeze. Of course I'm sunburned again (not too bad since I had sunblock, but bad enough that the spray pack will be a little uncomfortable on my back). There were lots of green sea turtles and a couple monk seals on the beach nearby, but they didn't care too much about us. I took the picture of the shark from this pier last weekend. We didn't see any today though.
It was a pretty good weekend, but the weekdays aren't so bad either.
Jumping off of Cargo pier.
These dolphins were pretty far out and I had to use my 300 mm zoom lens at full zoom, so I'm glad they turned out ok. Not professional, but ok.

Nice Day

Today actually was a nice day (except for the 1 hour of rain in the middle of the afternoon). I took a lot more pictures but I can't post them now because I'm recharging my camera battery. Just go back and look at the ones I posted last week.
Today my boss and his wife found a dead monk seal pup. It had died at least a couple days ago and was only a day or two old. They had to do a necropsy on it and I think every fly on the island came to witness it. It looks like it may have had some developmental problems. So that was interesting.
I think I've finally explored the whole perimeter of the island now. I still think it's great here. The wildlife is amazing.
We had a Father's Day party tonight with the local band playing. I know it's a week late, but we needed some excuse for a party since we didn't have an incoming plane this week. Today a sailboat came in that was on its way from Australia to California that needs some repairs. So they'll be stuck here at least for 4 more days until our next supply plane comes in with their parts.
Also, I'll respond to some of the comments for you new people. I work for the US Fish and Wildlife Service on a temporary position for 6 months doing invasive species management. The main job is getting rid of a plant called verbesina (golden crown-beard, it's the yellow flower you see in many of my photos), but on an island with only 65 people, you have to do whatever needs doing. Midway is 1 hour earlier than Hawaii and only about 120 miles from the International Date Line. And yes, the white terns are as nice as they look. I don't know why they like to fly 3 feet from your head, but they are interesting companions. And for you new people, don't forget to look through my old posts for pics. See you tomorrow.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hard work

Another day of getting rid of verbesina and chainsawing ironwood trees. Those trees are really hard to saw through, plus you have to clear out all of the albatross chicks before the tree falls. I don't have any new pictures since it's been unseasonably rainy. So I'll go back into my 4,000 picture archive that I have taken since I've been here for 2 weeks to make it more interesting. I promised mom that I wouldn't start giving boring details of my days so at least a picture is a little better.
Here's another beach picture.
I got a comment about someone liking tropic birds, so here's another one with a chick.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


I finally got to play some soccer today. We played in the gym after a few games of volleyball. We played in the gym because it's still raining and also there is nowhere else on the island that doesn't have birds or holes dug by petrels. I'm glad that the 65 people on the island like to do some exercise.
Today we also got rid of a bunch of weeds, counted tropic birds, chicks, and eggs, and I got all of my admin paperwork done so I officially work here.

The albatrosses are losing their down and getting nice hairdos.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Guess what. Another day of downpours and the highs are in the low 70's. We got a lot of inside work done. The people here say this is typical winter weather and usually it is very hot and dry this time of year. I took a few pictures anyway before I got completely soaked. Here's only 2 of them.
Black-footed Albatross
I took this one looking across the harbor right before I got soaked.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Last night I played some basketball and a Thai game called Takraw. It's a cross between soccer and volleyball, except they use a rattan ball. I think the Thai guys were surprised that I actually could play even though it was my first time. There are about 40 Thai people on the island who do support work for the island.
This morning I went kayaking since it was kind of a nice day for an hour or so. Then it rained the rest of the day as usual. Here's another picture that I took a while ago.

Here's one of the old cable houses built back in 1903 when they were laying the first trans-Pacific cable.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Today was a good day. The guy I work with, Greg, took me around all the deserted buildings and showed me all the stuff that was left by the Navy and anyone else who was here. There was a lot of cool stuff, old wall maps, furniture, pictures, paperwork, electronics, and all sorts of other equipment. The only problem was that the wet weather, termites, and neglect has ruined pretty much all of it. Every old building is leaking water so nothing lasts, and almost every piece of metal on the island is rusted. But it's good to know where to go to scrounge things when we're low on supplies.
We did some air sampling for NOAA (weather people) to measure CO2 levels on the island. We also had to do some work with VLF (Very Low Frequency) atmospheric monitoring for Stanford university. We had to then go check on the Tsunami Warning equipment we have here.
It was rainy again today so this afternoon we replaced some weedproof matting in the cemetery. There are 5 doctors and a sailor buried here starting from 1906. The doctors were buried here because it was the doctor who was in charge of embalming the bodies for travel back to the US, so when the doctors died, no one else knew how to do that. Interesting, huh?

Here's a few pictures that I took a couple of days ago since I didn't take any today.

Here's another white tern.

We also have a few thousand canaries on the island thanks to someone who let 12 of them loose.

This is a Black Noddy, we have Brown Noddies too but they look the same. It's hard to tell but their head is a beautiful powder blue.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Another Day of Rain

It's rainy again today, so I'll just post a few pictures that I got from one of the volunteers who I've been working with.

I'm chainsawing some little ironwood trees.

Here's My roommate Kahi, my boss John, and Kate from New Zealand banding a Laysan Albatross. (Kahi and Kate are volunteers, here for 3 months)

Here I am snorkeling to cut the big net loose from last week.

This is Jimmy (a Laysan duck researcher) showing some of the coral that the net pulled off of the reef.

Old gun on Eastern Island.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


It's rainy again today. I still ended up taking about 1300 pictures. I can delete at least 2/3 of them to save some computer space. I don't have too much to say today, so I'll just post a few of the pictures.

Pillbox from WWII facing the edge of the atoll. It started raining about 1 minute after I took this so I had to wait inside for about 10 minutes until it quit. This one was much better than the one on Eastern Island.

Here is the seaplane hanger I talked about a few days ago that got bombed on Dec. 7, 1941.

There was a group of 8 manta rays splashing around the beach.

A fledgling Laysan albatross learning to take off by running on the water.

Friday, June 15, 2007

1 week

Today I've officially been here for 1 week. Sorry I skipped the blog yesterday, but the internet was out. There are a few drawbacks with a tiny little 1200 acre island, but I think I'll survive the one day without internet. Yesterday we went out and banded some albatross chicks and also some red-tailed tropicbirds. All the birds here are pretty tame but when you actually grab them, they do bite. The tropic birds have serrated beaks to keep the fish in, so it kind of hurts when they bite, but I only got one little scratch from them. My roommate has the pictures of that so I'll see if I can get them tomorrow.

Today we had to go out and cut ironwood trees. I had chainsaw duty since I have the most experience with all my wood collecting in Montana. The ironwood trees can grow up to 40 ft in 18 months so they are kind of pests here too. The weekend is coming up so I'll have to figure out some good stuff to do. There's only 1 picture today but I'll take a bunch this weekend.

Red-tailed tropic bird with chick.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Day 5

I've seen so much here it seems like I've been here a month. Today was alright. In between getting rid of verbesina, the guy I work with, Greg, gave me a tour of one of the historic buildings. The old seaplane hanger was shot up and bombed in WWII and he was showing me the bullet holes and bomb craters. I'll post a picture of that place in a day or two (once I take one).

I went down to one of the piers today and saw some cool things. I saw 3 white tipped reef sharks together, lots of turtles and a manta ray. After I took some pics, I went to the pub and played cards. It was good to relax a little. Here are the pics from today:

Here's a Green sea turtle keeping an eye on a white tipped reef shark. The shark is about 6 ft long. Sorry for the lack of detail but the water was kind of rough today.

Here is a manta ray swimming in front of the same shark. The turtle was still watching but he is slightly out of frame. That would have been a cool shot.

Some green sea turtles resting on the beach for the evening, as well as some young albatrosses.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pics from yesterday

Today was rainy so there isn't much to say. We sprayed the weeds for about an hour, then it rained again so it might not do any good. I went to a movie tonight "Deja Vu" in the little theater that we have. It's free and they supply the drinks and food so it's not too bad.

Since there wasn't a lot of action today, I'll just post some pics of me at the little gun turret on Eastern Island.

Here's my boss, John crawling in first to check out the "pillbox".

Plenty of room inside.

Monday, June 11, 2007

First day of work

Guess what. I didn't take any pictures today. But it was my first day of work. This morning it was all paperwork but this afternoon was interesting.
We took the boat out because there was a large fishing net stuck on the reef so we had to go snorkeling and cut it off. It wasn't easy. There were 5 of us and it still took over an hour and the net was a few hundred pounds. At least no seals or turtles will drown now. The net did a lot of damage to the reef too by breaking off lots of nice live coral. From the boat we saw a very large manta ray splashing on the surface. It swam right under the boat and looked like it was about 10 ft. across. We also watched some seals fight and then went over to Eastern Island to check that out. There are no buildings on that island anymore and just a lot of cement, old rusty metal, and of course birds. I crawled into an old WWII pillbox (a little steel box where they could fire their machine guns from). I had to crawl underground through stickers, ants, and spiders but it was cool. I'll post a pic tomorrow if my roommate's photos turn out.

Tonight was basketball night, last night was bowling night, so there's enough to do around here. I'll at least add a couple of pictures so you have something to look at.

Two Great Frigate Birds

White Tern chick.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

2nd Day

I checked out most of the rest of the island. It's a lot bigger than it looks from pictures. I am going to get some more pictures up that I took but it will be a few hours. I'll shrink them down so they aren't so huge when you click on them.

Our party last night was pretty cool. Some of the guys from Thailand put together a band and played. I don't recall hearing too many of their tunes at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame though.

I also found out that the albatrosses on the other side of the island are a little meaner. One actually ran over to me to bite me. It doesn't hurt. The ones on this side of the island don't care about people at all, so some places are difficult to ride your bike since they are everywhere.

The Clipper House (where we eat).

Laysan Albatross.

Laysan Albatross, 2 White Terns and the moon in the background.

Green sea turtle.

Hawaiian Monk Seal.

Hawaiian Monk Seal with pup.

White Tern with chick.

White Terns also called "Fairy Terns" because they fly about 3 feet from your head and follow you.

Great Frigate Bird.