Located at the far end of the extensive Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is one of the most remote atolls in the world—more than 1,500 miles north-west from Honolulu, Oʻahu. Home to the world’s largest albatross colony (and more than 20 other migratory and breeding seabirds and shorebirds), Midway Atoll NWR evokes the idea of an isolated, pristine environment. However, after decades of dredging, building, digging, moving, and bulldozing, Midway Atoll NWR is far from it—making wildlife conservation, habitat restoration, and invasive species control both challenging and rewarding.
Haven’t heard of Midway before? Located more than 1,500 northwest of Honolulu, this tiny atoll is literally in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, halfway between the west coast of the United States and Japan.
As I double checked my two bags in the morning, one overstuffed (yet weighing in at exactly 50 pounds) duffel bag and backpack filled strategically with books, camera equipment, binoculars, and other field necessities, I still could not believe that I was actually returning to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge / Battle of Midway National Memorial. It felt unreal and even as I passed through the TSA security check at the Boise, Idaho airport, looking back once more and waving “Goodbye!” to my parents, reality still had not settled in. I buckled up in my seat on a tiny, packed jet heading to San Francisco, and looked out the window over the Boise Foothills, now turning various hues of brown and the Boise River, at their base, outlined by groves of still green trees. Little pings of excitement flashed through my mind as the airplane started to prepare for take-off, and I thought back to my feelings the first time I headed out to Midway Atoll NWR.
Surprise surprise! I am still in Hawai'i! Due to mechanical issues with the plane, the Midway Atoll NWR crew has been unable to leave so we are unfortunately stranded on Hawai'i. Lucky for us, Waikiki Beach and the surrounding area are full of things to see, do, and explore! So far, I've managed to check out the Honolulu Zoo (which houses literally hundreds of birds from around the world!), spend time at the beach swimming and exploring the fish biodiversity, and eat lots of delicious food, including a visit to the famous Leonard's Bakery. Everywhere we go, we're greeted by coo's from Zebra Doves and chattering from Common Mynas all around. The vegetation is so green and vibrant here and as we were out swimming this morning, it hardly seemed plausible that it was November! Hawai'i is a true gem and even though Waikiki Beach seems to be overrun by exotic birds, we did have the luck to catch a glimpse of some fairy terns fluttering overhead.
Enjoy the pictures of my adventures below!
Wieteke Holthuijzen: budding environmental scientist, passionate birder.