An Ocean of Heartbreak

Deviating from the happy, naughty and cute today, I explore a heartbreaking reality.

The Midway Atoll is a 2.4 square mile island lying about one third of the way between Honolulu and Tokyo. It is the unorganized territory of the United States made up of tow significant pieces of land, Sand Island and Eastern Island It lies half way between North America and Asia.

Much has happened on this tiny piece of land – wars have been fought, it’s birdlife has been poached, military set up established for a while, and more recently it has been proclaimed a National wildlife refuge.

Midway Atoll is a critical habitat in the central Pacific Ocean. A number of native species rely on the island which is now home to 67–70% of the world’s Laysan Albatross population, and 34–39% of the global Black-footed Albatross.[16]

While Midway supports nearly three million birds, each seabird species has carved out a specific site on the atoll in which to nest. Seventeen different species of seabird can be found, the rarest of which is the Short-tailed Albatross, otherwise known as the “Golden Gooney.” Fewer than 2,200 are believed to exist due to excessive feather hunting in the late nineteenth century.

Over 250 different species of marine life are found in the 300,000 acres (120,000 ha) of lagoon and surrounding waters. The critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals raise their pups on the beaches. Monk seals are benthic foragers and rely on the Midway Atoll’s reef fish, squid, octopus and crustaceans. Green sea turtles, another threatened species, occasionally nest on the island. The first was found in 2006 on Spit Island and another in 2007 on Sand Island. A resident pod of 300 spinner dolphins live in the lagoons and nearshore waters.[18]

Marine debris with Laysan Albatross chicks.

The islands of Midway Atoll have been extensively altered as a result of human habitation. Starting in 1869 with a project to blast the reefs and create a port on Sand Island, the ecology of Midway has been changing.

A number of invasive exotics have been introduced. Ironwood trees from Australia were planted to act as windbreaks. Seventy-five percent of the 200 species of plants on Midway were introduced. Recent efforts have focues on removing non-native plant species.’

This is all very disturbing, but the subject that breaks my heart is the needless deaths of hundreds of precious birds as they  consume and feed their babies rubbish. The Atoll receives substantial amounts of trash from the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ which washes up on the beaches. This garbage represents a hazard to the bird population of the island. Of the 1.5 million Laysan Albatrosses that inhabit Midway, nearly all are found to have plastic in their digestive systems, and approximately one-third of the chicks die.

This is an extremely sad fact – these fluffy, unique chicks die painful deaths as they starve for want of real food when their bellies are stuffed full of plastic bottle caps and other plastic objects. This is something that should not be happening in any reality – it is unacceptable that animals are suffering from the effects of our greed and wastefulness.

You need to watch this little clip and let the reality sink in of how much damage is done and how much everyone’s commitment and help is needed. Please have a look – it is heartbreaking and will probably leave you sobbing – it did me, but it is important to see so in knowledge we can act and make a difference.


Photography by Chris Jordan.


About Shemer

Author who loves reading, writing, horse riding, archery, books, dancing and many other things. Fulltime Soldier and part-time wildlife management student who loves to do adventurous things and explore the real world or books in her spare time.
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