Midway is a coral atoll six miles in diameter with three islands--Sand, Eastern and Spit - named for its position midway between San Francisco and Tokyo. Eastern island is triangular in shape, about a mile and a quarter long by
three--quarters of a mile wide, approximately 334 acres of nesting birds. Eastern island uninhabited and accessible only when accompanied by Fish and Wildlife or National Marine Fisheries Service staff.
Eastern Island Airstrip is a disused airfield in use by US forces during the Battle of Midway,
June 4-6, 1942.
The location of Midway in the Pacific became important to the military as a convenient refueling stop on transpacific flights, and was also an important stop for Navy ships. Beginning in 1940, as tensions with the Japanese
were rising, Midway was deemed second only to Pearl Harbor in importance to protecting the U.S. west coast. Airstrips, gun emplacements and a seaplane base were quickly established, the channel between Sand and Eastern islands was widened, and Naval Air Station Midway was completed along with an important, classified submarine base.
Midway's importance to the U.S. was brought into focus on December 7, 1941 with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, as the Japanese attacked after their return from the bombing in Hawai’i.
During the interim, Japanese forces planned for an attack on Midway in order to seize it for their strategic advantage. In early June, a Japanese battleship was sitting outside of Easter island, with its leaders planning on using that island for its headquarters. Easter island had the only runways in Midway, and US planes were camouflaged in its dunes. Oon June 4, 1942, a naval battle near Midway resulted in the U.S. Navy exacting a devastating defeat of
the Japanese Navy, marking the beginning of the end of the Japanese Navy's control of the Pacific Ocean.
The island is now home to Laysan Duck; Laysan, Black-footed Brown and Red-footed Albatross; White, Grey-backed and Sooty Terns; the elusive Short-tailed Albatross, Great Frigatebirds and Christmas Shearwaters (only to name a few!). With less of a human presence than Sand Island, Eastern Island has been the successful target of an ongoing fight against invasive plant species as well as habitat restoration for 2 endangered birds, the short tail albatross and the Laysan duck.
We walked around the island, cataloging birds with our cameras, finding a juvenile Short-tailed Albatross, a Christmas Shearwater, Red-footed Boobys, and a Monk Seal. I managed to get a thorn lodged in my heel, which was not fun, but did not stop my progress. We ended up the morning on the boat heading back to Sand island, being led into port by dolphins. Completely wonderful!
The afternoon was lazy, a simple bicycle ride to see the dolphins racing near sunset (they didn’t get their invitations, though), and some sunset Albatross photography. Nice way to end a nice day. Tomorrow it appears we will do a circle island tour one last time to catch any spots we may have missed. Hopefully, the heel will clear up overnight. What a day!