Somewhere in the Middle of No and Where

Two days ago, I was on the boat anticipating a long slog to Hawaii with little fuel left and decreasing selections of food to be had. Today, I am sitting in the “Empire Cafe” Internet Cafe on Midway Atoll at the very northern-most tip of the Hawaiian archipelego (although not a part of the state of Hawaii). Midway, you may know, was the site of an etremely important battle which turned the tide in the War in the Pacific in WWII. It has long been a midway in the Pacific stopping zone (hence the highly creative and origninal name of the island). Up until about 10 years ago, there was a huge military presence on the island. Now the only people who live here are scientists and people to maintain the infrastructure of the airport etc. Oh, and over 2 million birds. Midway is now a wildlife preserve and there are over 2 million albatross, not to mention the petrels, shearwaters, tropicbirds, terns, and goodness knows what else. You can’t move without tripping over an albatross chick. The ginormous, ugly creatures basically can’t move and sit there chirping loudly at you and smacking their beak in your general direction. Then there are the shearwater burrows which are everywhere so you can’t leave the road without the possibility of falling into a hole and breaking your ankle. All that being said, this is a pretty darn cool place to be! I never thought I would ever get to come here, and, in fact, we didn’t really plan too. It just happened… Albatross are pretty funny birds. On the beach they call them goonies, because they really are goons on land. So graceful on water, complete klutzes when it comes to walking. If you have ever seen “The Rescuers Down Under” (if you haven’t, it is a fine example of Disney so you should see it), then you have some idea of how albatross take off and land. When they are going for a take off, it is a running start with wings fully extended to their 6ft span, flapping and you hear “thwap, thwap, thwap, thwap” as they pelt down the road. After about 20ft, they are ready to take off. When landing, they come in, backing their wings like crazy. If they are lucky, their feet hit before their chest. Either way, they slide a foot or so on the chest before coming to a complete stop and standing up. It is quite a sight to behold.
So that is Midway Atoll. We’re here until tomorrow morning, and now I am off to enjoy the beach with sand and water the colour of everything we saw in the South Pacific.

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