satellite view from PMNM
E komo mai; welcome! Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is surrounded by a lei of foam in the middle of the North Pacific; it's a beautiful, special place.

Not only are there albatross on Midway, but many other interesting kinds of wildlife, both on the land and in the sea. Please enjoy exploring FOAM, an educational blog actively done while on Midway from May through August 2010. Posts are added from off-Midway, as information becomes available. If you're interested in a particular topic, please use the search box or the alphabetical list of "labels" along the left side of the blog page.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami Hits Midway

Guest blogger Anna here with news about the aftereffects of the tsunami on Midway Atoll.

albatross chicks caught in Naupaka bush; photo by Pete Leary.
The earthquake off the coast of Japan generated a tsunami that hit Midway around 11:40 pm last night. The tsunami was about 5 feet high, and flooded some parts of the island. Sadly, at least some chicks and adult LAALs were killed, and dozens if not hundreds of chicks were washed away from their nests onto roadways and under bushes. Fortunately the nests inland were not affected, and both the adult LAALs and their chicks are going about their business as usual. The chicks are fuzzy balls of fluff right now, and should be ready to fly in a few weeks.
Short-tailed Albatross chick on Midway's Eastern Island; photo by Pete Leary.
Update:
Volunteers and visitors to the island spent the afternoon freeing dozens of albatross chicks who had been washed into and caught inside thickets of naupaka. This often required hacking through the bushes with large clippers and small saws, and either crawling through the spaces or climbing on top of the branches to perch suspended over the ground. Visitors also dug out many petrels who had been trapped and buried in their burrows.

While Eastern Island was hard hit, amazingly the short-tailed albatross chick survived!

19 comments:

Lisa said...

Thanks for the news. Please keep us posted if possible about how the wildlife and humans are doing.

AJ Knue said...

How did the Short-tailed Albatross nest fare, as well as Wisdom's nest?

Barb said...

My friend Maggie says--
"Midway and FFS have been on my mind all night. I went to ...FOAM and wanted you to know how good it was to know that the tsunami didn't over run the island. I know there has been damage, but the guest blogger post is so appreciated! How do these amazing birds weather the storm? Your blog explains it in a good way!"

Anonymous said...

What about "Wisdom?" and the Short-tailed albatross family?

Auntie Moana said...

Aloha kākou! What a night, but I'm OK! Remember, my nesting area is near the center of the island, near the Fish & Wildlife office.

But we're still checking up on my friend, Wisdom, who lives closer to the lagoon, but still probably in a safe area.

And of course, when it's safe, we gonna send some of da FWS scientists and volunteers to Eastern Island within the atoll to see how the Short-tailed Albatross nest is doing. BTW, has anyone heard if the tsunami hit Torishima Island, the home territory of the STALs??

Anonymous said...

Wisdom has a nest right by Charlie barracks, a safe area

Barb said...

Hurray! I'm so excited to read Anna's update about the survival of the Short-tailed Albatross chick! What hard-working volunteers & visitors!!

Tanya said...

Thanks for sharing this, you must be exhausted, wishing you lots of strength for more rescues.
Wisdom is a celebrity now - many countries picked up the story of her age and everyone is hopeful for her chick.
Good news about the short tailed albatross chick.

Lisa said...

Great work, all! Thanks

Randi said...

Thanks, Barb, for creating FOAM so we can stay updated. I'll keep checking in over the next few days. Lots of love and strength to you lucky folks working hard on Midway!

ron hirschi said...

Thanks so much for the post.......I was picturing the scene, remembering places on island and over on eastern....I hope the burrowing birds are okay too.....Wisdom, I know, will be fine due to her experience/adaptive significance.......but those young albatrosses, nesting for the first time in marginal habitat. Thanks to all the volunteers and FWS staff who are our heroic partners at Pihemanu!

Please let me know what I can send to the thousands of kids who will be asking me what they can do to help through Save Our Albatross/Research and Friends of Fred...........Ron Hirschi, Marrowstone Island

r.a.f.be2e said...

Glad to hear the wave wasn't as bad as I feared. Was there any impact on the Monk seals?
Odd though that during my time on Midway we were forbidden to put Fairy Turn chicks back in their nest (interfering with nature) and the FWS was hell bent on cutting down every Ironwood tree on the atoll (non-native)but now it's ok to hack and saw up the naupaka to free the Alby chicks....

Barb said...

About Monk seals, good news from Pete Leary's blog posted on March 12 (http://peteatmidway.blogspot.com/)-- "The seals were back resting on the beaches on Friday." Hurray!

Joe Jayasinghe said...

Thank God for saving Midway and thank you for giving us information. I was so worried about the people and wild life as surge was so high. We appreciate assistance given by everybody to save the chicks. A pair of Golden Albatrosses were visiting Midway.Is there an increase in there numbers?. Are Mynas and rats a problem. Thanks FWS and NAVFAC for protecting the wildlife.

Barb said...

Hi Joe,
Earlier this year we got this information from Pete Leary, the Biologist for the Refuge: "As far as I know, we've only seen 3 birds this season on the Atoll. The pair on Eastern and the single bird on the south side of the runway [on Sand Island]. Sometimes, there is another STAL that visits the atoll for a total of 4, but I don't know that that bird has shown up this season." ...But then the pair on Eastern hatched a chick, so by my count that makes 4!

And good news about mynas & rats. Although mynas are on the Atoll, there aren't enough of them to cause any real problems. As for the rats, after the USFWS took over the Atoll, they began a project that was successful in exterminating all the rats!

Akohekohe said...

I saw in the news that 2,000 adult albatross and 110,000 chicks were lost. I know the STAL chick survived but has its parents come back to feed him?

It is a blessing that all the volunteers, refuge and other staff are alright. Any news about whether the STAL chick is being fed would be greatly appreciated

Barb said...

As far as the STAL chick's parents returning to feed him/her -- as of Fri., March 18, USFWS staff on Midway don't think so. Check the March 19 FOAM post (http://foam-friends-of-albatross-on-midway.blogspot.com/2011/03/update-on-midway-atolls-tsunami.html) for more details.

Let's keep our fingers crossed!...and as soon as I hear anything, I'll put up a new FOAM post.

Joe Jayasinghe said...

Industrial waste delivered to the Pacific by surrounding nations had an adverse effect on Layson Albatross,specially lead poisoning. Now with the disaster in Japan heap of radio active material delivered to sea will enhance the pollutants in waters in this region. These will enter the food chain and do more damage to bird population than ever.Are we studding on this?.

Barb said...

Hi Jay -- Thanks for your very interesting comments!

First of all, perhaps I can clarify the lead poisoning issue. For better or worse, the lead is coming primarily from very old lead-based paint flaking off some of the old buildings on Midway. I never did a FOAM post about it, but there were actually 2 contractors on Midway this past summer, while I was there, and they will be helping the USFWS tackle this lead-poisong problem in albatross.

As far as your worry about radioactive products from the earthquake/tsunami-caused nuclear reactor problem in NE Japan, I thought you might like to read the very informative article from the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), "Radiation & the Oceans," http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=56076&tid=282&cid=94989

Hope this helps answer some of your worries! aloha, Barb