Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cinderblocks, Hot Peppers, and Sharks

I'm trying out new titles to see if it catches your attention. Today was pretty good, after finishing up some online training, I went out and cleared some verbesina and wild poinsiettas from around an old gun emplacement from WWII. I never knew it was there until we cleared it. So there's a picture of that for today.
This afternoon I went out to help the coral reefers with some stuff and also to do a marine survey to look for nets and other problems. Kristen is trying to figure out a Ph.D project so today she wanted to see if there are any pearl oysters within the atoll. Here's where the cinderblocks come in. We threw some cinderblocks off the boat with black fabric floating a few feet above it, and in a couple weeks they'll collect them and see if any baby oysters are there. We would jump in and check them out after we threw them in and that's where the shark comes in. I jumped off the boat and a shark came over to see if I was worth eating. It was about 5 feet long so I wasn't too worried about it. I tried to get a good picture of it coming at me but I forgot to wind my camera after the last shot, so I only got one of it going away from me. It was about 3 feet away so it would have been a good shot and I could have told you all that it was bigger. It will be a while before that's developed though so tune in later for a picture. I also got a nice picture of a moray eel. So overall it was a very interesting day. Did I tell you I still love it here?

This is the old gun emplacement that Greg and I cleared. The inside was full of poinsiettas too.

Here's where the hot peppers come in. I was pulling weeds in the banana orchard or grove or whatever you call it, when I found they had hot pepper plants growing everywhere. Of course I had to munch on a few and since it's right on the way to the office in the morning, I'll have to stop there to get a morning kick. It wakes you up more than coffee.

Here's some bananas that will be ready pretty soon. We also got some coconuts and ate one today.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Satellite Birds

So today I looked at the progress of our satellite tagged albatrosses on toppcensus.org and a couple of them have really gone a long way. One of the black-foots has gone about 1000 miles in the last week and one of the Laysans has gone almost as far with a late start. There aren't too many albatrosses left on the island and the rest should be gone in a week or two.
Today we went out looking for a native plant called "Ilima". It's in the Mallow family. There was only one left on the island and no one's been able to find it lately so it looks like it may be gone. If we want to re-establish it we'll have to take it from another island where there's plenty of it. There still could be some hiding somewhere so we'll have to look around a little more to see if there are any more plants left.

This is what the Ilima looks like from Lanai (picture from http://www.hear.org/starr/hiplants/images/thumbnails/html/sida_fallax.htm ) taken by Forest and Kim Starr.

Here's another beach picture just so you can see how nice it is here.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Good Sunday

It was a pretty relaxing day today. A few of us took the kayaks out and the dolphins came over to investigate us. They were swimming all around the kayaks for about 15 minutes, but if we weren't moving, they'd lose interest and swim away so we had to keep paddling. We saw quite a few green sea turtles while we were out too. The only seal we saw was sleeping over on the old seaplane ramp, but overall we saw a lot of animals today. I played some frisbee on the beach after kayaking, then this evening went bowling. So nothing too exciting, but a good day. Now here's a few pictures for you.
This is a common site. A Laysan albatross is deciding whether or not it's ready to get in the water yet.

Kate (the volunteer from New Zealand) found a dead albatross and this is probably the reason why. There was 240 g of plastic and the birds only weigh about 2.5 kilograms when they're young. This one probably didn't have much room in its stomach for food and probably starved to death even with a full belly. There are 7 bottle caps, a lighter, a plastic fork, a toy car wheel, fishing line and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Here's a few pictures for former visitors

Today was a typical lazy Saturday on Midway. I didn't do a lot. I read some of my book, went and jumped off cargo pier a few times to cool off, then played beach volleyball at sunset. We have lights so it's nice to play when it's a little cooler.
Lately I've been getting emails from people who have actually been out here. So today I'll post a few pictures of some of the buildings that are still here. Many of them were torn down when the Navy left. Many buildings aren't being used right now because there's only around 70 people here. Once we start getting visitors again, maybe we'll have to get some of these back in shape.

These are the houses across the street from mine. Mostly the Thai's working on the island live here.

This is the back of the main hangar. Our tennis court is under there so we can play in the rain too.

This used to be the galley. We don't use it for anything anymore because it's too big for us.

There were many old barracks with this same design when the Navy was here. I think there are only 6 still standing.

Here's our gym. Here's where all the indoor volleyball and basketball games are. You have to watch your step in some places because the termites have eaten a lot of the hard wood floors. That's not really a high spending priority since this is a wildlife refuge. There are people who've been out here for years so it's nice to have a little recreation.


I thought that only people I know would be reading my blog so thanks to all of you who've found it on your own and write comments. I'll try to keep it interesting for you.

Today wasn't all that exciting but I'll tell you about it anyway. I sprayed a lot of verbesina this morning. It's really hard to spray only the invasive weeds and not the native ones since when they're small they look alike. Today we had another plane come in. It took 9 people off the island so it's getting a little less crowded around here. I also saw them unloading real bottles of wine from the plane so it'll be the first time since I've been here that it's more than boxed wine. I also learned how to become a copier repairman. We don't have any on the island so Greg and I had to learn how to fix it. I guess it's a trade-off with having lots of people to fix broken things or having not lots of people and it being really easy going around here. I think I'll take the not lots of people.

You might be tired of seeing my sunset pictures, but I'm never tired of taking them so you'll have to suffer through them.

This is kind of a cool map hanging under the airplane hangar. So if you want to find out how far you are from me, just check your miles to San Francisco.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chainsaw Thursday again

It was "Chainsaw Thursday" again. It's still really warm but at least my muscles are used to the work now. I doubt if we'll have "Radar Hill" cleared by this fall (it's called Radar Hill because there used to be a radar station there). The trees are only a few years old so it could be worse. I did my usual after work thing, go jump in the ocean to get rid of the sawdust so I don't clog the washing machine.

Tonight I also took a tour of the Kukui (the coast guard ship). It's got a whole lot more room than I had back on the submarine. They are done with their work here so they'll be out of here tomorrow. They were busy all the time so they rarely made it out on the island. I've only

got one picture for tonight. Sorry, I'll work on it for tomorrow.The Kukui at sunset right after my tour.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Plane Night

So finally the plane came in. I guess they got the GPS fixed alright. So it was also mail night and thank you very much Delilah for the underwater camera and thanks very much mom and dad for the package of books and goodies. Today we sprayed a lot more verbesina and then went and took an inventory of stuff that was salvagable from the airplane hangar. When the old company that used to run support here left, they left everything a huge mess. Since we don't want to waste federal money cleaning a place that will eventually fall apart, we just try to save the good stuff that's there. It's actually pretty cool going through all that old junk even though almost every piece of metal is rusted and every piece of wood or paper is termite damaged.

The volunteers that were here finally left (I hope they don't get in trouble for staying an extra week). It's funny how the whole island dynamics change every time a different group is here. The coast guard ship is still here but they work so hard on the buoys that we never see them. That's it for now and here's a couple pictures.

This is our little reception area under the hangar for when the people arrive by plane.

This is what it looks like when people are looking for mail from the plane.

This is a random picture of a little puffer fish that was found on the road. The white terns catch little fish to feed to their chicks. This one apparently puffed up and was too big to feed to the chick, so it just dropped it. The baby puffer still died but it didn't get eaten. I don't know if that's good or bad???

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Slowing down

Things are slowing down a little bit and it's gettin a little more routine. Today I sprayed a lot of verbesina. I've got a picture of the piles of nets for you that we've taken from Eastern Island.

Did anyone watch the Animal Planet show??? I'd like to hear how it was since we don't get that channel. We're wondering here if the plane will show up tomorrow to take all the people off that couldn't leave on Friday. There are 4 volunteers who are late getting back for their jobs so are kind of anxious to get back (but also kind of not). The videos that we watched last night were very interesting. Ziggy shot a lot of cool underwater animals. If any of you have been to Hawaii lately and seen a video on the plane or hotel about reef etiquette done by talking fish, it was the one he made. I'll give you a couple pictures now.
This is only the nets, ropes, and other entanglement hazards that we picked up on Eastern Island the last 2 trips. The boats barely stay above water but we make a good wake so the dolphins like it.

This is a hybrid between a Laysan Albatross and a Black-footed Albatross that we found when we were putting the satellite tags on. You can look at my previous pictures to compare the two.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Another busy day

It was another busy day here. Before I talk about it though there are 2 pieces of news for you. One is that last summer the BBC was here doing a film mainly about the marine debris problem and they are airing it on Animal Planet for the next few days. I haven't seen it so I don't know how much of midway is on it but check it out (I wasn't here yet). Here are the times they gave me. I'm not sure which time zone they are for, but you can check your local listings.
7/24- 9 PM
7/25- 1 AM
7/28 12 PM
7/29 10 PM
7/30 2 AM
Next piece of news; for those of you who know me you know that I worked with Karl selling his paper made from elephant dung. For those who don't know me check it out, it helps the wild elephants in Sri Lanka and is a good gift. http://www.mrelliepooh.com/ I guess they are going to feature a segment about it on "The View" this morning 7/24 at whatever time you get that show. If you miss it check out the segment on the web http://www.buychange.org/stories-in-the-media.html It's a good cause.
Ok, now for my busy day. Speaking of marine debris, that's what we did today. We went over to Spit Island and Eastern Island and removed mainly nets and ropes and other entanglement hazards. Tomorrow I'll take a picture of the piles we got just the last 2 times we went over there. By the way, the person who sent the info about the BBC show said that thanks to this movie, there is a big movement to reduce plastic. One problem with that is that they are trying to fix it by getting rid of plastic bags. I have yet to see a single plastic bag wash up on the beach. Those aren't a marine debris problem. It's the bottles, bottle caps, lighters, and other little floating bits and the big plastic nets and ropes that are the problem. Plus you need more trees cut down for paper, more fuel used to ship paper, and more space so I hope people are aware that it's not as simple as it sounds. Anyway, back to my stuff. Remember my spider story from a couple weeks ago? Well today when we were throwing a pile of nets and rope into the boat. One of those big cane spiders about 4" across decided to jump on my back to keep from drowning. I took off my shirt and it went into the water but I still don't like those things that much. About 10 geckos also came out of the nets and climbed on me too, but they don't bite so I gave them a ride back to shore. All those things can swim anyway so don't worry about them.
We saw a bunch of monk seals today including one that just caught an octopus and was throwing it around and eating it. A pod of about 130 spinner dolphins came to play around the boat today too.
Right now I'm about to go to a movie made by Ziggy (the guy who got bit by the eel) who is a NOAA videographer. I guess it's about eels in the Red Sea. I'll let you know if it was good.

This is Ziggy and his eel bite.

Here's a monk seal who's mouth is all green probably from plants growing under the pier.

This is just a plain old Red-Tailed Tropic bird.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Busy Day Yesterday

Sorry there was no post yesterday but there was a lot going on here. 2 ships pulled in within 2 hours of each other. The Coast Guard ship is called the "Kukui" and the NOAA ship is called the "Hi'Ialakai". The Kukui is here to maintain our buoys and the NOAA ship was here doing some moray eel research and to drop off a few people that I think were on either Lisianski or Kure Atoll. They also dropped off another person needing medical attention. He was filming the eels being released back into the water after being measured. He had one foot over the side of the boat and the eel wanted some revenge so it swam around under the boat and bit him pretty badly. He is bummed because he's not done filming but hopefully he won't have any permanent damage to his foot. Here's a picture I found of the type of eel that bit him: http://www.underwaterphotography.com/photo-contest/view.aspx?id=11728
Both ships stayed overnight and the Hi'ialakai left today. The Hi'ialakai crew treated some of us to a BBQ out on the pier so that was nice. Their crew has a lot of ex-Navy guys on it and one of the guys actually was on a submarine doing nuclear power like I did (He was an Electronics Tech and I was a Machinist Mate). It was cool trading stories with those guys since I'm the only Navy vet on the island. People from both ships and the island people all hung out chatting until about 2 in the morning so that's why there was no post.

The Kukui.

The Hi'Ialakai.

Friday, July 20, 2007

No plane today

Today we were expecting a plane, which was bringing a few people and taking away 7 people. They had problems with their GPS so they couldn't come (I don't know why they need that anyway, the pilots know where we are). The plane won't come until at least Wed. now which messes up a lot of schedules, especially for the volunteers that were here for 2 weeks that needed to be back at work on Monday. I think the people that are stuck here don't mind but the people that were supposed to be here probably don't like it so much. At least nobody stresses over that stuff around here.
A couple of the Blackfoots that we tagged are flying around now. I think that website will be more interesting in a few days when the birds get farther away.
One of the ways people keep busy around here is to mess with other people's bikes. For example, here's Jimmy's bike:

You've got to do something with all the marine debris from the beaches.

Here's the little glass ball I found on the beach last week (not that interesting of a picture, but at least it's not another bird, right?) It's about the size of a tennis ball.

Chainsaw Thursday

Tomorrow we'll start actually having daytime flights. There are enough birds gone from the island that we won't worry too much about having planes hit the birds. That means we moved "Chainsaw Friday" to "Chainsaw Thursday". So I finally got a chance to weigh myself at noon and after work. I lost 4 1/2 pounds in 3 hours of chainsawing. It probably would have been more if I had dried off instead of being soaked by sweat, and I even drank a quart of water. It's good that I like to work when it's really warm.
Tonight we had another fire near cargo pier. I saw another new thing here. I saw a moonbow or whatever you want to call a rainbow at night. The moon isn't that bright but it was clear and there was rain off to the east so there was an arc of light. It wasn't colorful or anything but it was still cool. I've got no new pictures for today so I'll have to pull some out of the archives. By the way, I've found out that the Canon EOS starts renumbering after 9,999 pictures so I had to start a new file and I've officially taken over 10,000 pictures here.
Somtimes we have to use a bulldozer to clear paths for the birds to get through the plants to the ocean.
This Laysan albatross just has a funny hairdo.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More Bird Transmitters

We put 6 more transmitters on birds today. Here's the website that will track the birds again: http://www.toppcensus.org/ The one we did yesterday is already flying around and you can see it by looking at the live feed links.

You can see why we have to clean up the beaches every now and then. We let one of the birds go here. (My roommate brought the soccer ball home, since it's in decent shape.) The big round things are fishing net floats, they used to be made of glass, now it's just hard plastic. I found a little glass ball on the beach last week about the size of a tennis ball. People find the glass ones about once every 2 weeks.

Here's another bird that we put a transmitter on that you can track either today or tomorrow.

We barely caught this one in time before it decided it was time to leave.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bird Transmitters

Today we did something different. We got some satellite transmitters sent to us to put on Black-footed Albatrosses. There's a website that tracks all kinds of animals around the Pacific and they want us to put 9 transmitters on the albatrosses. The website is http://www.toppcensus.org/ It's pretty cool because they track sharks, turtles, seals and lots of other things. Our birds won't show up quite yet since we only put one transmitter on so far. We'll put the others on as soon as a signal shows up on the satellite. It's really hard to find Black-foots right now since almost all of them have alread fledged, but there are probably a few dozen still around somewhere. In answer to the comment I got yesterday, the tiger sharks have been around but I haven't personally seen them yet. While the barge was here they saw a 15 foot one swimming around. The sharks will end up getting quite a few of the young birds who are just swimming and not flying. I'll try to go to the harbor in the early morning or evenings since that's when most of the sharks come into the harbor (also where I can get the best pictures). It's not the best time for swimming right now for 2 reasons, one is the dead birds and the other is the sharks. It'll only be another couple weeks before it's ok again.
Greg and John are taking some measurements on the bird.

The transmitter is pretty small and will fall off when the bird molts its feathers.

You can see the antenna as the bird thinks about leaving.

Monday, July 16, 2007

6th Week (I think)

It's the start of my 6th week here, and I still like it. I'm getting used to everything so there's less interesting stuff to tell you about. Tonight a plane came in and from now on they'll land in the daylight since there are a lot fewer birds flying around now that the adult albatrosses aren't coming back much to feed the chicks. When they get hungry, they'll walk to the beach, jump in the water and either learn to fly quickly and get their own food or they drown. It's not so great for swimming right now and for the next couple weeks because there are a lot of drowned birds in the water. We save them when we can but there are thousands all around and they'll just go back in the water anyway. Here's a couple of random pictures, like our brand new fire truck.

Just kidding, this is our old one but it's still used to clear birds off of the runway.

Here's a random hibiscus flower just to brighten up the page a little.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Last night a bunch of us went to the pier. We had a campfire, watched the stars, and slept outside. It was pretty nice out. Since I didn't get a whole lot of sleep, today was kind of do nothing day. I napped a little and went bowling tonight. The hibiscus trees are all blooming right now so I'll give you a picture of that.

Here's our little internet cafe. It only has a drinking fountain and old computers, but it's better than nothing. Plus the hibiscus is nice.

A frigate bird is scoping out an albatross to see if it can steal any food. They always bother tropic birds and blackfooted albatross. If they bother them enough, they throw up their food, then the frigate birds catch it in the air and have lunch.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Coast Guard Plane

We had a Coast Guard plane come in today to pick up the person from the ship with appendicitis. It was something different so everyone goes to check it out. The Coast Guard guys were throwing around a football when they got off the plane. We tried to buy it from them since we don't have a football on the island, but they said it wasn't theirs so they couldn't sell it, but they'd bring an extra one next time.

It was another warm day and a nice day for pictures. Tonight we are going to the pier again just to hang out and look at the stars. I had to review a skymap so I can find my constellations tonight. I'll keep this shorter tonight since I wrote a bunch last night, so here's some pics from today.
Our small boat had to go out to the ship to pick up the medevac person.
Coast guard plane landing.
Now it's getting ready to take off again.

Friday, July 13, 2007


It's starting to get warm here. One of these days I'll weigh myself in the morning and then in the afternoon to see how much I sweat off during a workday. I wear plastic gloves while I'm spraying the weeds and I might as well have water balloons around my hands since they fill up by the time I'm done. Don't worry, I'm drinking enough water. I had to go swimming with all my clothes on again to wash off the sawdust from the chainsawing today. It's really relaxing just to float for a while in the ocean and not do anything. I had to be careful not to scare the mom and pup Monk seal further down the beach.

We have another medevac flight tomorrow. I don't know the details but apparently someone on a Japanese ship has appendicitis so will get dropped off here and get a coast guard flight out. I've been surprized at how many times people have used Midway for emergencies just in the month and a half that I've been here.

Tonight was kind of lazy. A few of us just sat out on the end of cargo pier, watched the sunset, then looked at the stars. There is absolutely no light pollution so it's kind of hard to pick out constellations because the background stars are so bright, especially the milky way. Did I tell you this place was great?
Another sunset.

This is a native tribulus plant (also known as puncture vine). It has really sharp spines on its seeds that will poke through thin shoes and stick on everything.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I went to another science talk last night. This one was given by Dr. Don Potts. He's the advisor of the grad students out here doing the coral reef research. His talk was kind of depressing since he talked about the decline of the coral reef at Midway and how it could be gone in 100 years due to ocean acidification from increased CO2. It was really interesting though and he had some thoughts on what can be done to stop the coral death.

On another note, the mosquitos are getting bad here. I killed one yesterday and one today. I know you people in North Dakota and Minnesota feel sorry for me.

I've got to get up early and sharpen the chains for "Chainsaw Friday". It's a little like "Casual Friday" but more work.

I'm running out of original photos for now so I'll give you one of an Emerald Beetle. These guys are almost an inch long and are very clumsy fliers. They run into things all the time. You can also make nice broaches out of them by putting them on your shirt. They don't bite but they eat all the papayas before anyone can pick them, and they aren't native so I don't like them too much.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Guess what, no connection yesterday!

I really don't have to post everyday, do I? The connection here is poor at night because I think that's when a lot of people watch their internet TV and download stuff.

Yesterday was pretty cool. I sprayed weeds in the morning and in the afternoon it was marine debris pickup. We went out snorkeling to get rid of more nets and junk that will tangle up the turtles and seals or wreck the coral. We found a lot of stuff. 2 people came along to do a seal survey along the atoll wall and found 3 of them. I saw a lot of fish and swam through a big crack in the reef to the outside of the atoll. The water was pretty cold but it was really clear. It felt like a hot tub coming back into the atoll. We also had a trio of dolphins swimming in front of the boat and passed over 5 big manta rays swimming together.

Today I sprayed more weeds and in the afternoon did a beach debris pickup. We collected all kinds of glass, plastic, and other kinds of junk. We picked up a lot of fishing floats for nets. They used to be glass, but now are hard plastic. Almost all of the junk we find is from Japan. There must be a good current carrying their trash here.
The volunteers are picking up the debris on Turtle beach.
A naupaka plant on North Beach.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Getting hot

It's been staying clear and getting hot here. It hasn't rained since last week so this is more like the weather I was expecting. Nothing too exciting went on today, lots of weed spraying, and tonight I played some cribbage at the Tavern so rather than being boring I'll just give you a picture from the deck at Capt. Brooks.

The sunsets are finally getting nice now that the clouds are mostly gone.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Good Sunday

It was a pretty relaxing day today. It was warm and sunny so it was a great day to go back to cargo pier and jump in the water. We did that for a couple of hours and tonight we went bowling. Overall there's nothing too exciting to talk about but it was a nice lazy Sunday.

Luis is a volunteer here for 2 weeks with the coral people.

This is a bad picture but you can see that we do have real bowling here, not just the coconut bowling.