Midway Weather

Sunday, August 3, 2014

So long old friend

I don't think I'll see you again.  It was great to spend some time with you.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Government bail-out

The situation on station is getting a bit challenging with the lack of regular replenishments.  We've been over a month without fresh fruit and I'm starting to get worried about scurvy in the island residents.  Fortunately the Coast Guard agreed to fly out some critical supplies and move some personnel.  Unfortunately an engine failure on landing prevented the plane from taking off the same night as planned.  The benefit was having many hours to update my replacement instead of having to cram everything into a few minutes.

USCG C-130 at the old Naval Air Field - Midway hanger

Flying the Coast Guard 'colors' at the Midway House
 I fully expected that the repair wouldn't be able to happen locally and we'd need another plane. So imagine my surprise when we were ordered the airfield the following day to embark.

First Officer walking the wing between the props

Walking the left wing, to the right of the prop
Homeward bound! So many emotions ...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Stranded: Day 30

We've now missed two regular flights because of the contractor difficulties and are starting to run low on food.  Fortunately there is a caveat to the refuge rules that allows fishing, if it's for sustenance.

Yesterday we took one of the boats offshore and trolled around the 300' depth line.  There aren't any fishing rods on the island, so instead they've attached lengths of parachute cord to large hooks and secured them to the boat cleats.

We were almost immediately gratified with a zing on the line and worked furiously to pull in the line by hand.  Unfortunately two sharks got to our fish first and took off the back two thirds of what was probably a 70 lbs wahoo.  Then we hooked one of the Galapagos sharks - which was exciting.  The bugger had taken the hook pretty good, so it was quite a fight to get it out and let him go.

By the end of the afternoon we'd kept 3 and 1/3 wahoos, one rainbow [threw him back] and a shark.  When we got back to the pier, a few experts sliced up the wahoo into different types of cuts.  They also kept the heads an most of the organs, since the Thai guys will use them to cook with.  The rest of us gorged on sashimi so fresh there was still blood oozing from it - yum!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Stranger danger

Last week we received the NOAA R/V Hi'ialakai for half a day.  They swung by on their cruise through the NW Hawaiian islands that happens several times a year to pick up and drop off researchers.  On this occasion, the vessel was asked to bring out some strategic supplies from Honolulu since we've been without regular transportation.

They all seemed like good folks and it was a shame to have them leave so quickly.  Though in past years the crew has raised hell, causing them to usually be restricted to their vessel.
I had a great time chatting with their Medical Officer/PA and got shown around the ship's 'sick quarters' in just a few minutes.  Of the 18 NOAA vessels, only 4 have a PA on board.  Of the 4 large research vessels, only this one has a dive compression chamber on board; used to treat decompression sickness from SCUBA accidents.
Because of the ongoing transportation difficulty, I got offered the chance to cruise back to Honolulu aboard the vessel, but wasn't able to get my replacement to Honolulu before the boat had to set sail.  So I'll have to miss out on the adventure of a lifetime, spending 9 days cruising through the NW Hawaiian islands - a place most people don't even realize exists.

Cute chicks

baby White Tern on a branch

chick and mum
just hatched Tropic Bird

juvenile Tropic Bird

back of juvenile Tropic Bird, lying down

Over the line

Back in the military days, there were strictly held lines between enlisted and officers.  It went so far that there was a rope used to mark the east and west side of the recreational north beach.  Punishment was swift and severe for transgressions across the boundary.

The other day I stumbled across a beautiful trail laid through the sand.  One of the FWS folks said it looked like the wanderings of a turtle looking to lay eggs - on my side of the beach.  Though it's refreshing to see the species bouncing back [this would be the second known nest on the island], it would mean closing the only open beach to human access.  Three sides of the island are already restricted access to allow the wildlife to be unmolested.  Now the 'officers' may restrict access to this part of the beach as well.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sunset at the beach

The other day I sat down on the beach to enjoy the sunset.  After a few minutes of enjoying the view, I got distracted by a tickle on my hand.  The ghost crab had a nice meal from the side of my hand.

 As the sky darkened, I retreated back into the fore-dune and meditated with a fire; until I got bit by another crab.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stranded: Day 24

Things are deteriorating quickly here on the island.  No aircraft movement to the island in almost a month, since the carrier disappeared from the face of the earth.  Latest rumor is no plane until August.  We may have resorted to cannibalism by then.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cast away on a tropical island.

We're scheduled to get the G-2 flight out here every 2-3 weeks for crew change out, mail and perishable foods.  Last week the flight was cancelled the day of without any explanation.  Now we're told the contract with the company has been cancelled and there isn't an opportunity to get another company/flight out here until August ... or later.
I was supposed to leave in two weeks.

Hopefully my 'message in a bottle' will reach the right hands.  In the mean time, I've made my own Wilson with a soccer ball I found last week on the beach.

Great heights in patient care

Last week a patient came into the clinic in fulminate fluid overload, swollen like a giant water logged sponge.  I've been able to squeeze out a bunch of fluid with some water pills, but the concern is always peeing out too much potassium with the water pills.  No way to check potassium levels here and no access to bananas or other potassium rich foods until the next plane arrives.

So instead I've had to climb the palm trees and harvest the potassium rich coconut water.  This may set the benchmark for commitment to patient care, but totally worth it to avoid MEDEVAC #4

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer solstice

Sunrise at 'Sunrise Cross' at the East end

Sunset from Rusty Bucket at the West end

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Close encounters

This morning on a beach stroll I saw the local Spinner dolphin pod moving through the shallows.  I grabbed the radio out of my pack and waded out about 100 yards into the chest deep water.  When I got close to the pod, they turned and came towards me for an inspection.  Eventually they came close enough that I could hear their ultrasonic squeaking while they were circling.
It was absolutely amazing - though also terrifying when I initially saw a bunch of fins coming straight at me.

Friday, June 20, 2014

$15 / gallon gasoline

Today was the day to take the golf cart/ ambulance over to the 'gas station'.  The pump is staffed on Fridays from 9-10am every week for the fleet of island golf carts.
I've heard tell that after the fuel is purchased in Honolulu and barged the 2,000 km out here on special trips, it ends up being around $15 a gallon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Weekend adventures

Last Saturday a couple of us went for another snorkel adventure under the pier.  I was desperately hoping to catch a glimpse of the small shark that lives under a piece of rubble.  When my partner started squealing through his snorkel, I knew I was in luck and quickly dove down underneath him to catch a glimpse of this rather large white tipped reef shark

After catching my breath at the surface, I went down to the bottom [~40'] to try to find him again, and instead found him and a friend cruising along one of the large pilings. I followed along behind them for a minute until I realized it was probably really stupid to 'follow' two reef sharks at depth.

Curiosity got the better of me and I went down to the bottom one last time to try and find my shark friends, but instead found a 5' sea turtle slowly paddling along the pier pilings.  At that depth the light was pretty marginal, so the picture didn't turn out great.  But it's still a fantastic memory.  Though all the old trash/debris in the background certainly takes a bit away from it.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Private lookout

The 2.9 square mile island can get a bit small after several months.

Recently I began eyeing the 4.2 million gallon fuel tanks that have been decommissioned as potential hide-aways.

After struggling barefoot up the chopped stairs, I was greeted with a delightful view looking out to the West.  Though it isn't quite tall enough 'to see my house from here' it was a delightful sight none the less.  Even with the hum of the diesel generators being carried across the island.

Eastern Island on the horizon with Spit Island on the right
Decommissioned fuel pier and cargo pier

Monsoon season

The heat certainly ended last night, though the humidity is now 100%.  In the middle of the night the sky ripped open and began a melodic downpour onto the roof just overhead.

Pathetic looking 'Gooney' bird chick

Torrential run-off

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tryin to reason with Hurricane season

There's been an unseasonable change in weather over the last few days.  The jet stream has given us a belt of muggy, hot, steamy weather that's been blowing over the island.  I feel like the air here could be cut with a machete - it's that thick.

Hopefully it'll change soon.  The temperatures been oscillating between 74' at night and 82' during the day, but with >90% humidity and I'm already starting to wilt.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Friends at the beach

Monk seal pup at Rusty Bucket

Adolescent seal on North Beach

Sea turtle at Cargo Pier

Then & now

While browsing through the visitor center recently I came upon an old chart of the area made around the turn of the last century [below].  It was a treat to see the areas marked out for the Commercial Pacific Cable Co Station [top of island] and Pan American Airways Station [right side of island].
What is most striking though is to look at the current satellite photos and appreciate that the entire SE [bottom right] corner of the island didn't exist in the 1930's.  It wasn't until the military needed more island that the area was filled in with sand and coral that was dredged up from the newly created shipping channels.

Of course the huge engineering project completed 80 years ago will likely be washed away in another 80 years if the expected sea level rise comes to fruition.  The average height of the island is only a few feet above sea level and many suspect the island will soon be underwater.

Battle of Midway

Last week was the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Midway.  In honor of the thousands of fallen heroes, I spent last Sunday cleaning the grave sites at the Doctors Cemetery.

A brillo pad and some nevr-dull
After extensive 'elbow grease' and polish

Extensive corrosion, before cleaning

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Working vacation

FWS personnel making a technical water entrance

Last weekend I was asked to help FWS collect some coral samples ahead of planned work on the decaying seawall.  We got to swim around as the surf sloshed against the seawall and 'harvest' some coral heads.  They were then glued onto bricks and placed out at hotel reef until the project is completed.

After spending several hours in the water, we were all a bit chilled.  Fortunately one of the long-timers told me about the 'secret' outdoor shower with piping hot water.  It was delightful.

Daily trash service

Thanks to the Great pacific garbage patch, Midway gets a huge daily dose of plastic, fishing nets and line on the beach.

I've taken to picking up trash while walking the beaches.  It provides a nice opportunity to slow down and look around.  Fortunately I always carry around a section of line that I can use to make a 'trash train'.

A few weeks ago we had huge ball of plastic detritus wash up on the beach.  I actually got to watch it surge across the shallows before docking on the beach.  Several of us tried to pull it up, but quickly found that the combined weight was well over several tons.  They ended up using a telescoping forklift to take it to the 'trash pile'. The FWS folks here say the ginormous commercial fishing boats will lash together all their scrap nets and rope and set them adrift in an attempt to bait in fish.  Sometimes the trash balls are even found with GPS locator beacons on them.