Friday, August 31, 2007

Tractor & NOAA ship

Today was one of those busy days where not much gets done. The Sette came and left this morning, the plane came and left this afternoon, so it was busy but not productive.

I got my 500 GB hard drive on the plane today so I can at least make some room on my laptop hard drive. 12,000 pictures with a 10.1 Megapixel camera really takes up a lot of space.

I've also got some news. I'm going back to Honolulu on Sunday. I'll be there until Friday. I have a cracked tooth that has been bothering me for a while and we have 4 planes in 8 days. I have enough sick leave saved up to take the whole week off, but if I work, I'll get to stay for free. So while I'm there I'm going to work on loading up our supply barge and also get heavy equipment training. The guy who just gave my tractor training will train me on the forklift and backhoe in Haleiwa, which is on the North Shore of Oahu. Then I'll be able to do all kinds of work around here.

I haven't decided yet whether or not to take my computer so I might be offline for a week. I'll let you know.

Here's the John Deere tractor that I'm finally allowed to drive.

Here's the Sette pulling in early this morning. They brought us some supplies and took some things back to Honolulu for us. You can see the clouds that rained on us all day behind them.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Another Chainsaw Thursday

We're slowly getting rid of that one patch of trees. Maybe by December we'll be done. Today I finished the tractor training so I can finally mow the verbesina. That's a lot easier than spraying, although we'll still have to spray the new sprouts that pop up.
The NOAA ship "Oscar Elton Sette" is coming back tomorrow. It will pick up Angie, one of the seal people, and leave right away again. We'll also have a plane tomorrrow afternoon so it'll be an interesting day.

This is what the bunchgrass looks like. We're trying to get it to grow pretty much over the entire island.

This is the Fish & Wildlife office. That is a whale skeleton that was on the beach. It's in the native plant garden where we have examples of most of our native plants.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More TV stations

We got 3 of our TV stations back after losing them for a month. There was a wasp nest on the satellite dish and was blocking the signal. Now we got Showtime, WGN, and TNT back. That still only gives us 12 channels. We've got 2 ESPN's, 2 CNN's, HBO, TBS, a religious channel (TBN) and 2 Thai channels. At least there are a lot of DVD's on the island for people to swap.

Today and tomorrow are tractor training days. We did the online training and now we drive it around for a little while with an instructor watching. Then we can mow the verbesina.
For those of you who asked about the Gooneyville Lodge, this is where it used to be. I'm not sure when it was torn down but it was a long time ago. This is a spot that we spray verbesina, mow, and keep it controlled.
This is taken from the same place on the other side of the road. We haven't gotten to this yet. Maybe next year.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Last night a bunch of us watched the lunar eclipse out in the yard. It started here at about 10 pm. I know for a lot of you it was at an inconvenient time. It was fun hanging out with everyone, and cool to see the orange moon. It got cloudy right after it became a total eclipse so we didn't need to stay up too late. Today I monitored the tropic birds again and Greg and I cut up some old fallen ironwoods by the cable houses that were kind of an eyesore. Someone will take the front end loader and clear them out. That's about it for today.
The moon at 10:00 pm.
10:30 pm.
11:00 pm. Sorry for the bad focus but you get the idea.

Not so excitiing Monday

Today wasn't that exciting. This morning I did chainsaw maintenance and this afternoon I did paperwork for my performance standards. I didn't get a chance to take any pictures and I didn't do anything exciting enough to talk about so I'll just give you some pictures.

This is the same weanling female from yesterday that was playing with the electrical cable. Now she's taking a rest next to a beach debris crate.

This is the place we call "Rusty Bucket". It's full of old rusty stuff.

This is a view down the old north/south runway that isn't used anymore. It's just filled with weeds but an airplane could land on it if it's a real emergency.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Seal Sunday

I didn't do much today. I took another few hundred pictures so I'm up over 16,000 now. I took some pictures of some of the areas we've been working so I'll show them to you. I'll show you other areas on a slow day.
I also saw a seal playing with some old electrical wire. That's the kind of stuff we pick up along with the nets because the seals will play with anything and end up getting hurt or drowned. I also saw one albatross chick yesterday near the seaplane hangar. I think that was finally the last one here since no one has seen any for about a week. This one didn't make it though. I went by today and saw that it died about 100 yards from the water. It probably hadn't been fed for a while. But that's how it goes on Midway.

This is a small seal born this year playing with the frayed cable.

Part of Radar Hill before chainsawing ironwoods.

Same spot after cutting ironwoods.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sharks and Volleyball

Today was a good day. Jaime needed help out on the reef on a coral study. That's basically an excuse to go snorkeling. Jaime actually needed to do work and can't go out alone so one of the Thai guys and I came along so he could work (we actually helped him clean the algae off of some labels). We went over to reef hotel which you can see in that old picture from a couple of days ago. They use that as a study site because all of the rusting steel (high iron) in the water makes a certain algae happy that can kill the coral when it blooms. We saw another shark today. It was a small gray reef shark that followed us around for a while. It was only about 3 1/2 feet long.
We had some good beach volleyball games tonight. It's really nice to have lights on our court. That's about it for today I guess.
This green sea turtle was next to cargo pier.
I'm just showing you that the weather isn't always nice here. This picture was taken a while ago, but today it rained hard on Sand Island. Since we were out snorkeling at the edge of the atoll, we had nice weather. We watched the rain from about 3 miles away.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Weeds and Seeds

This morning I planted about 1,000 peat pots with the bunchgrass seeds we picked up over on Eastern Island. Greg and I also spread a lot of seeds all over a big sandy area by the seaplane hangar so we'll see if any comes up there. We also sprayed verbesina today, like every day.

We banded 4 new tropic bird chicks today. They have to be just about ready to fledge before we band them so they'll be likely to survive and the band won't fall off their tiny legs. When they look like the two from yesterday's picture they are old enough. While we were checking the tropic bird plot, Greg spotted a big glass ball floating in the harbor. It was a 10" diameter green one. We had to fish it out of the harbor with a long boat hook. We also had to duct tape a long stick to the end since it was about 15 ft out.

The greenhouse is pretty much like any other. I've been spending a lot of time here lately.

This is out behind the greenhouse. That's a white tern chick on the wheelbarrow. The adults lay their eggs just about anywhere that an egg will not fall off of and when it hatches, the chick sits there until it fledges. I guess we won't be using this wheelbarrow for a month or so.

A scenery picture from cargo pier.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Chainsaw Thursday

Another day of clearing Radar Hill. We are doing pretty good so far. There is one tree we can't cut down yet because a red-tailed tropic bird chick lives under it. It should be gone in a week or two so we'll wait. We aren't cutting them nearly as fast without the volunteers around to clear the small branches and put the trees in piles. We pile them up so there is still nesting habitat for the petrels and albatrosses. I'll show you a picture soon so you know what I'm talking about.
Tomorrow I have to go check the red-tailed tropic bird plots and count them so your pictures today will be of them.

There are a few parents hanging around their chicks, but usually they fly off and leave their chicks alone while they get food. There are no predators on the island and its warm so the chicks are usually ok alone.

These are two red-tailed tropic bird chicks that live under the same tree but on opposite sides. This day the one on the left wandered over to the other side. They squawked at each other for 5 minutes, then the one went back to the other side. These are the birds who really can't use their legs for much other than scraping along the dirt so it was a pretty big trip for it. These two should be ready to fledge in maybe 2 weeks

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Quiet Day

I spent most of the day today planting bunchgrass and processing the seeds for planting later. I guess I should show you a picture of that since I talk about it. But you all are probably used to me being a day or two behind on the photos anyway. Overall it was a pretty quiet day and of course, warm and beautiful. I'll keep it short for you today rather than get into too many details.

See, I told you the dolphins weren't doing anything yesterday.

White tern chicks are great to take pictures of because they are everywhere and they don't really care if you're next to them. The adults are always around too. Today one landed on me while I was emptying spiders out of a bag of bunchgrass seeds.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Eastern Island

Today we took a trip to Eastern Island. Angie went to count monk seals, Jimmy went to count Laysan ducks, and Greg and I went to collect seeds from native bunchgrass to plant on Sand Island. We saw the dolphins on the way over and I took some pictures, but they were being lazy so the pictures aren't that interesting. Just a few fins sticking out of the water. We saw 36 Laysan ducks over at the pond where we were collecting the seeds so even though they are endangered, they seem to be doing just fine here.
There was also another flight of Washington congressional staffers that flew out here to look around to see what we do here and what needs funding.
We had a 727 fly in with cargo last night at 3 a.m. They also deliver to some other island which is why they stop here at such an inconvenient time. But they bring us stuff so that's ok.
Eastern Island still has a lot of leftover metal and concrete from when they had the airfield on this island.
Here's a couple Sooty Terns checking to see what Greg is up to.
This is one of the 36 Laysan ducks that we saw at the pond.
A Brown Noddy chick is waiting on a stump to get fed.

Monday, August 20, 2007

New Birds

Today I spent alot of the day on the computer. I have to do some training to run the tractor with the lawnmower attachment. It's 5 hours of computer training and then I have to get certified by the certifying guy who just happens to be out here this week. We have to get in all our verbesina mowing before the albatrosses come back. Computer training for tractor operation seems kind of goofy, but that's how they do it.
I was out taking pictures yesterday and ran across a new bird I haven't seen before. I saw a white-tailed tropic bird (6 of them actually). They usually nest on cliffs so they don't come to Midway much, but I found a nest up in a tree with a chick. The red-tailed tropic birds nest on the ground so they are everywhere. It was cool seeing these here.

Here's a white-tailed tropic bird. They are a little smaller than the red-tails and they have a yellow bill instead of bright red. Oh yeah, and a white tail. You can check out my earlier pics of the red-tails or I can post another one tomorrow if you really want.

Here's a Curlew that was out near the seaplane hangar. They will come close to you if you whistle at them. There are quite a few down here now. I don't know where these guys came from but they come here after breeding season to hang out.

I'm just giving you this picture because it looks like the white tern is bigger than the seaplane hangar.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Midway Museum

Today was another relaxing day. As usual it was beautiful outside. I did some reading and talked on the phone. I also took a few pictures. The pictures today are from the museum we have here. It's not much. It's just a room in the hangar where we have a few artifacts, but it's interesting.
This is some general information on the Battle of Midway.
During the cold war in the late 50's and early 60's they flew these "Super Constellation" planes out of Midway as part of an early warning system for missiles.
This is an engine order telegraph and a compass from an unkown ship.
Someone made this model of Midway in 1990. It's around 10 feet long so it's pretty big. It's cool to see how many buildings used to be here, and how few ironwood trees.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Last 2 Days

Hi, I was way too tired to post last night so here's your 2 day update. The little going away party over at the Refuge Manager's house was nice on Thursday night. I took some pictures of pictures in his house, so I'll tell you about them in a minute. 10 people left yesterday, but 8 showed up. I have the house all to myself for now so we'll see how long that lasts.
We had a "plane night" at the All Hands Club last night. The band was practicing and one of the guys made popcorn and brought about a dozen flavored salts. So that was the big excitement, except for the wedge-tailed shearwater flying into the room and going after the drummer.
I think I'll have more time for reading now because the volunteers always liked to do things every night, and the long term people mostly do their own things.
Tonight is beach volleyball night, so that will keep me busy for now.
One of the traditions around here is to sign a poster for people when they leave. Here's Jimmy signing one for Michael.
This is the sign from the old Pan Am hotel that was built for very rich tourists on their way to Asia in the 1920's. This sign disappeared for years and then one day a package came in the mail with the sign in it. It was from someone who's dad was stationed here in the Navy. The son went to school here on the island and he stole the sign when he was little. He had been feeling guilty about it for years, so he finally sent it back. I don't know how old he is now, but now the sign is up on the wall.
This is the Gooneyville lodge. The sign is barely visible back in the shadows.
This is "Reef Hotel". It was built for people who were drilling into the atoll to find out how deep the actual island is. The island sunk millions of years ago and the atoll is here because the coral grows as fast as the island sinks. The islands here are actually just sand and coral pieces sitting on a coral reef. The buildings are on stilts to keep above the surf. All that is left now is the rusty stilts that are sticking out about 4 feet above the water. This is one of the spots we went snorkeling a few weeks ago.

I saw this green sea turtle yesterday afternoon in the harbor eating all those little plant pieces around it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Good Thursday

Today was fun. After spraying some verbesina and pulling some by hand, we went to spit island to get rid of the verbesina over there. We had to cut off the flowers so the seeds wouldn't mature on the pulled out plant. We also went snorkeling since we were out in the boat. We went outside the atoll for the first time since I've been here. We went to a place that was about 30 ft. deep. It was pretty cool. There were lots of fish. I'll have some good underwater ones if I ever get them developed. There were 3 Galapagos sharks hanging around the whole hour we were out. They were little ones about 4 ft. long so we weren't worried about them (at least most of us weren't worried). They just went about their business and I think I got a few good pictures of them.
Tonight we're going over to the Island Manager's house for a little going away party for the volunteers. Like I said, it will be quiet around here until more show up in November.

My pictures are sometimes behind, so here's what we did last week.
This is the trail we made up to the gun emplacement from the doctor's cemetary.
Here's the gun emplacement all cleaned out and ready to look at.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Chainsaw Wednesday

Another day of getting rid of Ironwood trees. We moved it to Wednesday since our other volunteers are leaving Friday (as long as hurricane Flossie doesn't cause problems). As usual I took my swim in the ocean when we were done since we didn't have filet mignon for dinner tonight (it was seafood spaghetti).
Tonight I played a few games of cribbage and squashed about 6o little carrion beetles that were flying around Capt. Brooks' Tavern (since there aren't many dead albatrosses left, there isn't anything for them to eat so they were going after my Doritos and mango salsa). They'll be gone in a week I'm sure. We also played a few games of beach volleyball. I think I still like it here.
I've got some bad news too. The Bonin petrels are back. Those are the ones that dig the holes everywhere around the island. It's nice when they aren't here because when we fall into them we don't have to dig the little guys out. Since the sand is so soft around here, sometimes we'll collapse the sand into 3 foot holes. It's really hard to walk anywhere off the roads here because of them. They are nice little birds though and they don't peck at you when you pick them up to move them.
Bonin petrel in back of my house. He's looking for a good place to dig a hole.
Here's a random picture of the bananas we hung up in our garage to ripen. The branch broke so we didn't leave them on the tree.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More Visitors

Another Coast Guard plane came in today. It was a group of people from Washington D.C. here to check on the funding here. They took a tour of the island and left after about 4 hours so it was a short visit.
We're kind of wondering here if we'll have any problems from hurricane Flossie that's over the Big Island right now. That's still about 1600 miles away, which is about the distance between San Francisco and Dallas. Since the water here is cooler too, the storm shouldn't gain any energy. It could still mess up our flight on Friday, so we'll see if those 10 people can get out of here.
Today was an exciting day of getting rid of castor bean trees. We cut off the seeds to burn and then cut down the trees. I guess they used to grow them here for some reason, but now we're trying to get rid of them.
Here's the plane. It's a little nicer than the plane that takes us back and forth.
Here's a great frigate-bird just for something else to look at.


Last night was alright. It was bowling night first, then it was martini's out on the deck at Capt. Brooks Tavern to watch the meteor shower (I had to email someone coming back on the plane to get vermouth since we didn't have any on the island). Actually, there were more meteors on Saturday night, but there were a few more impressive ones on Sunday night.
Today our tech guy J.J. was busy. The coral reefers had an underwater camera start leaking on them and he tracked down the major source of our slow internet. Someone had a virus that was sending out millions of Spam messages all day, every day. He'll get his hard drive wiped, but at least we'll be able to use our internet now.
Today was my chainsaw maintenance day and I also did some greenhouse work. We are trying to get a couple of native plants to start growing here again, so I made up 200 pots for popolo plants and chenopodium plants. They'll grow from seeds that we collected on Eastern and Spit island. In a couple years we hope that they'll be all over the place.
You only get one picture today since I haven't taken many lately.
This is a very rare sight right now. I only saw about 4 albatrosses today so within a week they'll either all have died or flown away.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sorry I'm Late

I know it's been 2 days since I posted but I'm back now. Friday night we had a going away party for the volunteers who left on the Saturday plane. One of them was my roommate and my other roommate is leaving this Friday so I'll have an empty house. It already seems different with 10 people gone. That was over 15% of our population. A few of them will be back after vacation though. The plane also brought me a nice package from my girlfriend Dasha full of good stuff. Thanks.
I didn't do much this weekend other than read. My roommate loaned me the new "Harry Potter" so I've had to get on it before he leaves. I might finish it tonight. Last night a few of us went out to see the Perseid meteor shower. It was nice not having much light pollution. We're going out again tonight for a while just for something to do.
Here's Kahi, my roommate who left yesterday.

Another scenery picture. This was taken from the little peninsula on the south side of the island. The dark blue water is outside the atoll and the light blue-green water is inside.