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Voyage to Kure: The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

<< Expedition Diaries | About the Islands

Laysan Island

Satellite photo of Laysan Island

Hawaiian name: Kauo (“yolk of an egg” or “white of anegg”).

Has the only lake in the NWHI, one of only five natural lakes in all ofHawaii.

Greatest representation of all bird species in the NWHI.

Because of its large numbers of seabirds and its accessibility, Laysan attracted feather harvesters and miners of guano (bird droppings used as fertilizer) around the turn of the 19th century.

Introduction of rabbits devastated natural vegetation and caused several land birds to become extinct; two endemic land birds (the Laysan finch and the Laysan duck)remain.

The Laysan albatross population fell by 97 percent in just over 30 years (from 1 million in 1891 to about 30,000 in 1923).

Home to more than 30 kinds of plants.

Model of restoration efforts after attempts by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have succeeded in eliminating pests, restoring native vegetation and increasing endemic species populations.

In 2005, an archaeologist found coconut pollen in the lake sediments, evidence of one of two exciting possibilities. One is that native Hawaiians brought it, the first evidence they had traveled this far. The other is that the coconuts got to Laysan on their own, the first evidence that the plant made it to Hawaii without human help.