Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tsunamis and Seabirds : Midway

Laysan Albatross, Midway Atoll
The loss of life in Japan from the Earthquake and Tsunami has been absolutely horrific, and the potential damage from the continuing nuclear disaster is unimaginable. Like many of us, I have been deeply moved by the devastation.

One small story I missed, however, until a friend sent me this link, was the effect of the tsunami on Pacific Islands. The waves, spreading out over the Pacific, easily overran many small islands that may rise only a few feet above the level of the surrounding ocean.  One such place is Midway Atoll, home to one of the most important seabird colonies in the north Pacific. Thousands of albatrosses were killed when the waves swept over these flat, sandy islands, just as chicks were getting ready to fledge.

Albatrosses are long-lived birds, so despite a catastrophic wipe-out of this year's chicks, most of the adults will be back again next year, including "Wisdom," a female Laysan Albatross known to be 60 years old.  But since this is a place I know well, having been there several times in the past decade, I was shocked to hear of the damage. The fact is, there are probably similar stories from many other islands still not heard from across this vast ocean, including many with  human inhabitants.  

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that's sad... I can't bear what we do with our domestic animals either, when things like this happen. I saw a film of a dog some rescuers found that had been tied up for weeks with no food or water or shelter, and it's humans gone.
    Breaks my heart.

    This is an amazing photo, that light is out of this world.