Fwd: - Gooneybird island after the tsunami (Midway)

Subject: Fwd: - Gooneybird island after the tsunami (Midway)
From: brian fleming <>
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2011 23:37:53 +1100
A friend of my daughter's forwarded this to her, and she sent it on to me. I don't know the original senders but I feel their account will interest Birding-aus. I hope that Penny and Dennis (the writers) won't mind. Albatrosses, petrels and Laysan Teal all at risk. Good to know that people look after them.

Dear friends and family:
Thanks for the calls and emails of concern. We had an hour last night to
gather up a small bag of valuables, passports, food, water and sturdy
shoes before heading up to the third floor of the concrete barracks,
where all the island residents and visitors spent most of the night in
the corridor---the safest place on the island. Midway experienced 4
waves, all small---the highest was 5 feet. Doesn't sound like much, but
when most of the island is below 12 feet, it wouldn't have taken much
more to be disastrous. Luckily the barrier reef offers a lot of
protection. USFWS and Chugach are extremely well prepared: food, water,
medical, generator, etc. all on high ground within an hour.

So we're all OK, our colleagues at Kure Atoll and Laysan are also OK
(they don't have big solid buildings like ours) and today we are dealing
with the aftermath. Unlikely that any buildings were damaged but we
probably lost a lot of birds. The biggest concern is the condition of
the runway, the boats, and our very rare, very valuable short-tailed
albatross chick, who lives very close to the beach on Eastern Island.
We're prepared for a big day of damage assessment, but overall
everything went very well here. Our hearts go out to those people in
Japan who, despite the best prep in the world, no doubt suffered great

Haven't had time to read all your emails but hope this answers any
questions. Again, thanks for all your thoughts and concerns. This is the highest wave they've had here in many years and we hope it won't repeat for many more.

Penny and Dennis

then later on, part two.

Hi, everyone! We were all pretty exhausted this AM after a sleepless
night. The waves washed across some narrow strips of the island,
spreading debris on the runway ends and apparently causing some collapse
at the west end. One beach washed away and the remaining steep banks are
caving in. The dump is completely flooded with a horrific brew of salty
water. Most albatross nests were not affected as they were on relatively
high ground. We are thankful that the waves weren't a few feet higher.

Where the water washed across the island, we spent the day rescuing as
many albatross chicks as possible from a slow death in debris that
buried them. Even some adults were buried in debris or trapped in
naupaka trees, most severely injured or dead. Using just our hands, we
dug out several hundred chicks that were alive, picked up a few hundred
carcasses then tried digging out Bonin's petrels trapped in their
burrows. Most were dead but it was rewarding to dig out a burrow and
suddenly have a bird pecking your hand. The gooney chicks looked
pathetic, having been inundated, tumbled around and covered with
dirt/debris. Sometimes you'd start pulling partially buried carcasses
out of a tumbled mass and find one or two still alive. Their nests are
completely gone and we hope that the adults (many of them out at sea
feeding) will find them despite their displacement across the island. So
many dead birds.....but it could have been far worse and the human
population suffered no losses of property, etc.

Spit island was completely washed over but most of the albatross nests
there had already been destroyed in an earlier storm. The worst
destruction is on Eastern Island. The waves crossed it at several
points. Our precious "golden gooney" chick somehow survived but 75% (10s
of thousands) of the other albatross chicks are dead. The freshwater
seeps were overrun with sea water and are now full of dead birds and
fish. Since the seeps are vital for our rare Laysan teal, we'll spend
tomorrow fishing as many carcasses from them as possible and cleaning
the seeps as much as we can. It'll be a huge effort restoring habitat on
Eastern Island, but maybe the saltwater killed most of the weeds!

We're working hard to save what birds we can and keep our minds off what
might have been. It's difficult to imagine what the Japanese are
contending with and the magnitude of the disaster. We are very

Cheers! DK and PK

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