Farewell to Midway

Farewell to Midway

Friday, June 19, 2009

PA’A: “steadfast, learned, determined, strong, to hold, keep, retain.”

12Sunset soaring
Laysan albatross soaring across Midway Lagoon (Photo credit: Miriam Sutton)

I walked along the paths with the albatross once more today and even made an attempt to teach them about their parents’ journeys out to sea (see Ms. Sutton Teaches Albatross video in the Midway Movie Gallery). It is hard to imagine what tomorrow morning will be like without waking up to albatross calls at dawn or hearing the puttering of their feet just before take-off or ducking to avoid a collision with an adult returning from a 2-week, 2000+ mile journey to the Arctic. I will surely miss those encounters.

12PA'A 2009 Cohort
2009 Papahānaumokuākea ‘Ahahui Alaka’i (PA’A) Cohort. (Photo Credit: Linda Schubert)

Our PA’A project presentations were completed today and most of our afternoon was free for us to enjoy Midway. After a final snorkel at the cargo pier, I biked around the island for one more chance to absorb as much as I could from the wildlife and the aura of PA’A that engulfs Midway. I met so many wonderful people this week who were devoted to making our experience at the Midway Wildlife Refuge unique and memorable. To each of them, I am truly grateful. I have many new friends who I will carry forward in my heart as I work to implement my PA’A project back home (See photograph right)

12Monk seal pup
Juvenile monk seal entertains us during a chance encounter. (Photo credit: Miriam Sutton)


Things I will miss when I leave Midway: Monk seals and sea turtles hauling out onto the shore to warm themselves in the hot sand and sun; the juvenile seal that entertained us during a chance encounter beneath the seawall (see photo left); watching the albatross surf the waves on the south shore of Sand Island (see photo bottom); and watching the albatross chicks practicing for flight with all the awkwardness of a teenager trying to manage gangly growth spurts.
12Plastic Albatross
Plastic fills the stomachs of most dead albatross chicks. (Photo Credit: Miriam Sutton)

What I will not miss when I leave Midway: The plastic-filled stomachs of dead chicks (see photo below-right) or the mournful cries of the adults as they search for their chick who died while the parents were out to sea foraging for food. 

Things I will take with me when I leave Midway: A deeper understanding of the factors that affect the wildlife struggling to survive among the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands; the support of my PA’A ‘ohana (family); and the compassion of the scientists and volunteers who live and work on this remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I take with me “PA’A,” to guide my thoughts and actions with my students as we work within our community to monitor and conserve our pristine estuarine environment.

Mahalo! (Thanks!)

12Surfs Up3
Sub-adult albatross surf ocean waves breaking along the reef as they hone their soaring skills for a future at sea. (Photo Credit: Miriam Sutton)


Assess your ability to conserve resources and live a more sustainable  lifestyle. Look for ways in which you can reduce the use of plastic in your everyday life. Participate in recycling efforts. Try to create less of an impact on Earth’s environment and wildlife. Even small changes can have long-term impacts.