The tsunami created by the earthquake off the coast of Japan last week had far-reaching effects, as seen by the damage in Hawaii and the west coast of the United States. Right in the pathway of the tsunami waves between Japan and the United States is Midway. Mostly known in the United States as a key military base for the U.S. during World War II (and the subject of the Charlton Heston and Henry Fonda movie of the same name), the three sandy islands are now home to the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Located approximately 1,250 miles northwest of Honolulu, the refuge supports nearly 3 million individual seabirds, representing 21 species, plus monk seals, turtles and dolphins. It is one of the most remote atolls on earth and home to the largest Laysan albatross colony in the world.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which owns and administers the refuge, has reported that 5-foot tsunami waves washed over approximately 60 percent of Eastern Island and 20 percent of Sand Island. The smallest, Spit Island, was completely flooded. They estimate that tens of thousands of Laysan albatross adults and chicks were lost and thousands of Bonin petrels were buried alive when the underground burrows where they nest were flooded. The waves stranded sea turtles in the middle of Eastern Island, but they were rescued and returned to the water.
The residents and visitors of Midway had approximately four hours’ advanced warning and were able to secure infrastructure and equipment, then evacuate to the third floor of the island’s hotel. No one was injured. There are reports that Wisdom, the oldest known bird in North America survived the flood.
Here are more photos provide by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.