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expeditions/ 2005 RAMP/9_27-28_05
David Nichols, State of Hawaii, DLNR, HIHWNMS
Phycology REA diver Cheryl Squair (UH)
and coral REA diver Fenny Cox (HIMB) take a break from diving
to enjoy North Beach at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife
Refuge. Photo by Jason Kehn.
We arrive at Midway Atoll early in the morning on September
27. Midway Atoll measures 5 miles in diameter and includes
three small islands located at the southeastern end of the
lagoon totaling 1,535 acres. The protective reef around the
lagoon is submerged in some places and four to five feet above
sea level in others. Midway's associated reefs measure about
World War II, Midway served as an important naval air station
and submarine refit base. The atoll was attacked twice, first
on December 7th 1941, and again during the pivotal Battle
of Midway, June 4th-6th 1942. In 1996 the once strategic naval
base was turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
to be managed as Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
a fulltime Refuge staff administers a small visitor program,
cares for its wildlife, restores native plant life, and protects
historic resources. The backside of our visitor map refers
to Midway as “an oasis in the north Pacific where wildlife
comes first”. Nearly two million birds of 19 species
nest on Midway. The atoll has the largest Laysan albatross
colony in the world.
science teams are all launched in small boats to perform their
research tasks at the various sites around the atoll. The
teams see dolphins, monk seals resting on the protected beaches,
and green sea turtles feeding on algae near shore.
reef at Midway is rich and diverse. The underwater habitats
here include spurs, grooves, and sand channels that are home
to many species of algae, seagrass meadows, urchins, bi-valve
clams, sponges and much more that will keep the teams busy
for the next two days.
finishing with the first day of research at Midway the science
teams and crew are treated to a dockside picnic/bar-b-que
prepared by the NOAA Ship Hi`ialakai chief steward, Allen
Gary and second cook Susan Parker. These two do a great job
of preparing the daily meals for all on board. The food is
always great! I am certain that in spite of the non-stop work
being done (by crew as well as the science teams) no one on
board will be losing any weight this trip.
the picnic and brief orientation by the refuge manager, everyone
had a chance to take a quick tour of the island (including
the picturesque North Beach), play a little volleyball, Frisbee,
or relax at a beachside bon fire courtesy of the Midway Atoll
National Wildlife Refuge. The teams were back on the water
the next morning to continue their assessment and monitoring
activities around the atoll.
finishing up the day’s activities we depart Midway Atoll
and head for the last island in the chain, Kure Atoll. We
should arrive early tomorrow morning in time for our 7:30
species of sea cucumber first found by Bishop Museum’s
Scott Godwin in 2000 from Midway Atoll and Pearl and Hermes
Reef and has now been seen during this cruise also at Maro
Reef and French Frigate Shoals. Photo by Scott Godwin.
have another nomination for the “unofficial poster critter
for the NWHI” – affectionately known onboard as
the cookie-dough sea cucumber. Scott Godwin of Bishop Museum
first discovered this new species of Holothuria in 2000 from
Midway Atoll (and Pearl and Hermes). This new species has
now been described from two additional Northwestern Hawaiian
Islands locations during this cruise: French Frigate Shoals
and Maro Reef. This is an entirely new species of Holothuria
that appears to be endemic to Hawaii and presently is being
studied by experts on this group of organisms.
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