Midway Atoll

Midway Atoll

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Midway Atoll
is a 2.4 square miles (6.2 km²) atoll
Atoll
An atoll is a coral island that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.- Usage :The word atoll comes from the Dhivehi word atholhu OED...

 in the North Pacific Ocean, near the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago
Hawaiian Islands
The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and undersea seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500 miles from the island of Hawaii in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll...

, about one-third of the way between Honolulu, Hawaii, and Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

. Unique among the Hawaiian islands, Midway observes UTC-11
UTC-11
UTC−11 is an identifier for a time offset from UTC of −11. This time is used in:-As standard time :*American Samoa - Samoa Time Zone...

 (also known as Samoa Time
Samoa Time Zone
thumb|right|250px|SST is [[UTC-11]]The Samoa Time Zone observes standard time by subtracting eleven hours from Coordinated Universal Time . The clock time in this zone is based on the mean solar time of the 165th meridian west west of the Greenwich Observatory.The zone includes the U.S...

), eleven hours behind Coordinated Universal Time
Coordinated Universal Time
Coordinated Universal Time is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. It is one of several closely related successors to Greenwich Mean Time. Computer servers, online services and other entities that rely on having a universally accepted time use UTC for that purpose...

 and one hour behind the state of Hawaii
Hawaii-Aleutian time zone
The Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone observes Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time , by subtracting ten hours from Coordinated Universal Time . The clock time in this zone is based on the mean solar time of the 150th meridian west of the Greenwich Observatory....

. Midway Atoll is an unorganized
Unorganized territory
An unorganized territory is a region of land without a "normally" constituted system of government. This does not mean that the territory has no government at all or that it is unclaimed territory...

, unincorporated territory of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and the former home of the Midway Naval Air Station (former ICAO PMDY). It is less than 140 nmi (259 km; 161 mi) east of the International Date Line
International Date Line
The International Date Line is a generally north-south imaginary line on the surface of the Earth, passing through the middle of the Pacific Ocean, that designates the place where each calendar day begins...

, about 2800 nmi (5,185.6 km; 3,222.2 mi) west of San Francisco, and 2200 nmi (4,074.4 km; 2,531.7 mi) east of Tokyo. It consists of a ring-shaped barrier reef
Reef
In nautical terminology, a reef is a rock, sandbar, or other feature lying beneath the surface of the water ....

 and several sand islet
Islet
An islet is a very small island.- Types :As suggested by its origin as islette, an Old French diminutive of "isle", use of the term implies small size, but little attention is given to drawing an upper limit on its applicability....

s. The two significant pieces of land, Sand Island and Eastern Island, are habitat for millions of seabirds. The island sizes are shown here:
Island
Island
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, cays or keys. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot , or holm...

acre
Acre
The acre is a unit of area in a number of different systems, including the imperial and U.S. customary systems. The most commonly used acres today are the international acre and, in the United States, the survey acre. The most common use of the acre is to measure tracts of land.The acre is related...

s
hectare
Hectare
The hectare is a metric unit of area defined as 10,000 square metres , and primarily used in the measurement of land. In 1795, when the metric system was introduced, the are was defined as being 100 square metres and the hectare was thus 100 ares or 1/100 km2...

s
Sand Island 1,200 486
Eastern Island 334 135
Spit Island 15 6
Midway Atoll 1,540 623
Lagoon
Lagoon
A lagoon is a body of shallow sea water or brackish water separated from the sea by some form of barrier. The EU's habitat directive defines lagoons as "expanses of shallow coastal salt water, of varying salinity or water volume, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sand banks or shingle,...

14,800 6,000


According to other sources, Sand Island measures 1250 acres (505.9 ha) in area and the lagoon
Lagoon
A lagoon is a body of shallow sea water or brackish water separated from the sea by some form of barrier. The EU's habitat directive defines lagoons as "expanses of shallow coastal salt water, of varying salinity or water volume, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sand banks or shingle,...

 within the fringing rim of coral reef 9900 acres (4,006.4 ha). The atoll, which has a small population (approximately 60 in 2009, but no indigenous inhabitants), is designated an insular area
Insular area
An insular area is a United States territory, that is neither a part of one of the fifty U.S. states nor the District of Columbia, the federal district of the United States...

under the authority of the U.S. Department of the Interior
United States Department of the Interior
The United States Department of the Interior is the United States federal executive department of the U.S. government responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native...

. The Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, encompassing 590991.5 acres (239,166 ha) of land and water (mostly water) in the surrounding area, is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is a federal government agency within the United States Department of the Interior dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats...

 (FWS). The visitor program reopened in January 2008 and there are facilities for visitors. Travel to the Atoll is possible through organized tour companies or as a FWS volunteer. The tours focus on the ecology of Midway and the military history. The economy is derived solely from governmental sources and tourist fees. All food and manufactured goods are imported. The refuge and most of its surrounding area are part of the larger Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Midway, as its name suggests, lies nearly halfway between North America and Asia, and almost halfway around the world from Greenwich
Greenwich
Greenwich is a district of south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich.Greenwich is best known for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time...

, England. For statistical purposes, Midway is grouped as one of the United States Minor Outlying Islands
United States Minor Outlying Islands
The United States Minor Outlying Islands, a statistical designation defined by the International Organization for Standardization's ISO 3166-1 code, consists of nine United States insular areas in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea: Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll,...

.

Midway was the focus point of the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

, one of the most important naval battles of the Pacific Campaign in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, fought on June 4–6, 1942. Nearby the islands, the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 defeated a Japanese attack against the Midway Islands, marking a turning point in the war in the Pacific Theater
Pacific Ocean theater of World War II
The Pacific Ocean theatre was one of four major naval theatres of war of World War II, which pitted the forces of Japan against those of the United States, the British Commonwealth, the Netherlands and France....

.

Geography and geology


Midway Atoll is part of a chain of volcanic islands, atolls, and seamount
Seamount
A seamount is a mountain rising from the ocean seafloor that does not reach to the water's surface , and thus is not an island. These are typically formed from extinct volcanoes, that rise abruptly and are usually found rising from a seafloor of depth. They are defined by oceanographers as...

s extending from Hawai'i
Hawaii (island)
The Island of Hawaii, also called the Big Island or Hawaii Island , is a volcanic island in the North Pacific Ocean...

 up to the tip of the Aleutian Islands and known as the Hawaii-Emperor chain. Midway was formed roughly 28 million years ago when the seabed underneath it was over the same hotspot
Hotspot (geology)
The places known as hotspots or hot spots in geology are volcanic regions thought to be fed by underlying mantle that is anomalously hot compared with the mantle elsewhere. They may be on, near to, or far from tectonic plate boundaries. There are two hypotheses to explain them...

 from which the Island of Hawai'i
Hawaii (island)
The Island of Hawaii, also called the Big Island or Hawaii Island , is a volcanic island in the North Pacific Ocean...

 is now being formed. In fact, Midway was once a shield volcano
Shield volcano
A shield volcano is a type of volcano usually built almost entirely of fluid lava flows. They are named for their large size and low profile, resembling a warrior's shield. This is caused by the highly fluid lava they erupt, which travels farther than lava erupted from more explosive volcanoes...

 perhaps as large as the island of Lana'i
Lanai
Lānai or Lanai is the sixth-largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It is also known as the Pineapple Island because of its past as an island-wide pineapple plantation. The only town is Lānai City, a small settlement....

. As the volcano piled up lava flows building the island, its weight depressed the crust and the island slowly subsided over a period of millions of years, a process known as isostatic adjustment
Isostasy
Isostasy is a term used in geology to refer to the state of gravitational equilibrium between the earth's lithosphere and asthenosphere such that the tectonic plates "float" at an elevation which depends on their thickness and density. This concept is invoked to explain how different topographic...

. As the island subsided, a coral reef
Coral reef
Coral reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals. Coral reefs are colonies of tiny living animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps...

 around the former volcanic island was able to maintain itself near sea level by growing upwards. That reef is now over 516 ft (160 m) thick (Ladd, Tracey, & Gross, 1967; in the lagoon, 1261 feet (384.4 m), comprised mostly post-Miocene
Miocene
The Miocene is a geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about . The Miocene was named by Sir Charles Lyell. Its name comes from the Greek words and and means "less recent" because it has 18% fewer modern sea invertebrates than the Pliocene. The Miocene follows the Oligocene...

 limestones with a layer of upper Miocene (Tertiary g) sediments and lower Miocene (Tertiary e) limestones at the bottom overlying the basalts. What remains today is a shallow water atoll about 6 miles (10 km) across.
The atoll has some 20 miles (32 km) of roads, 4.8 miles (7.8 km) of pipelines, one port on Sand Island (World Port Index
World Port Index
The World Port Index contains a tabular listing of thousands of ports throughout the world, describing their location, characteristics, known facilities, and available services. Of particular interest are the applicable volume of Sailing Directions and the number of the harbor chart...

 Nr. 56328, MIDWAY ISLAND), and one active runway (rwy 06/24, around 8000 feet (2,438.4 m) long). As of 2004, Henderson Field
Henderson Field (Midway Atoll)
Henderson Field is a public airport located on Sand Island in Midway Atoll, an unincorporated territory of the United States. The airport was once used as an emergency diversion point for ETOPS operations. It is subsidized by Boeing...

 airfield at Midway Atoll has been designated as an emergency diversion airport for aircraft flying under ETOPS rules. Although the FWS
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is a federal government agency within the United States Department of the Interior dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats...

 closed all airport operations on November 22, 2004, public access to the island was restored beginning March 2008.

Eastern Island Airstrip is a disused airfield in use by U.S. forces during the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

, June 4–6, 1942. It is mostly constructed of Perforated Steel Plate sectional matting, built by the U.S. Navy Seabees.

Nineteenth century


The atoll was sighted on July 5, 1859, by Captain N.C. Middlebrooks, though he was most commonly known as Captain Brooks, of the sealing ship Gambia. The islands were named the "Middlebrook Islands" or the "Brook Islands". Brooks claimed Midway for the United States under the Guano Islands Act
Guano Islands Act
The Guano Islands Act is federal legislation passed by the U.S. Congress, on August 18, 1856. It enables citizens of the U.S. to take possession of islands containing guano deposits. The islands can be located anywhere, so long as they are not occupied and not within the jurisdiction of other...

 of 1856, which authorized Americans to occupy uninhabited islands temporarily to obtain guano
Guano
Guano is the excrement of seabirds, cave dwelling bats, and seals. Guano manure is an effective fertilizer due to its high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen and also its lack of odor. It was an important source of nitrates for gunpowder...

. On 28 August 1867, Captain
Captain (naval)
Captain is the name most often given in English-speaking navies to the rank corresponding to command of the largest ships. The NATO rank code is OF-5, equivalent to an army full colonel....

 William Reynolds
William Reynolds (naval officer)
-External links:* : Franklin & Marshall College...

 of the formally took possession of the atoll for the United States; the name changed to "Midway" some time after this. The atoll became the first Pacific islands annexed by the U.S. government, as the Unincorporated Territory of Midway Island, and administered by the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

. Midway is the only island in the entire Hawaiian archipelago that was not later part of the State of Hawaii.

The first attempt at "settlement" was in 1871, when the Pacific Mail Steamship Company
Pacific Mail Steamship Company
The Pacific Mail Steamship Company was founded April 18, 1848 as a joint stock company under the laws of the State of New York by a group of New York City merchants, William H. Aspinwall, Edwin Bartlett, Henry Chauncey, Mr. Alsop, G.G. Howland and S.S. Howland...

 started a project of blasting and dredging a ship channel
Ship channel
A ship channel can be an artificial or dredged waterway for moving ship traffic. A ship channel can also be a channel formed through surface ice by a ship.Several waterways are referred to as the Ship Channel* Houston Ship Channel...

 through the reef to the lagoon using money put up by the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

. The purpose was to establish a mid-ocean coaling station avoiding the high taxes imposed at ports controlled by the Hawaiians. The project was shortly a complete failure, and the evacuated the last of the channel project's work force in October 1871. The ship ran aground at Kure Atoll
Kure Atoll
Kure Atoll or Ocean Island is an atoll in the Pacific Ocean beyond Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands at . The only land of significant size is called Green Island and is habitat for hundreds of thousands of seabirds...

, stranding everyone. All were rescued with the exception of four of the five who sailed to Kauai
Kauai
Kauai or Kauai, known as Tauai in the ancient Kaua'i dialect, is geologically the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. With an area of , it is the fourth largest of the main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, and the 21st largest island in the United States. Known also as the "Garden Isle",...

 in an open boat to seek help for them.

Early twentieth century


In 1903, workers for the Commercial Pacific Cable Company
Commercial Pacific Cable Company
Commercial Pacific Cable Company was founded in 1901, and ceased operations in October, 1951. It provided the first direct telegraph route from America to the Philippines, China, and Japan....

 took up residence on the island as part of the effort to lay a trans-Pacific telegraph cable. These workers introduced many non-native species to the island, including the canary
Domestic Canary
The Domestic Canary, often simply known as the canary, is a domesticated form of the wild Canary, a small songbird in the finch family originating from the Macaronesian Islands ....

, cycad
Cycas
Cycas is the type genus and the only genus currently recognised in the cycad family Cycadaceae. About 95 species are currently accepted. The best-known species is Cycas revoluta, widely cultivated under the name "Sago Palm" or "King Sago Palm" due to its palm-like appearance although it is not a...

, Norfolk Island pine
Araucaria heterophylla
Araucaria heterophylla is a distinctive conifer, a member of the ancient and now disjointly distributed family Araucariaceae. As its vernacular name Norfolk Island Pine implies, the tree is endemic to Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean between Australia, New Zealand and New...

, she-oak
Casuarina
Casuarina is a genus of 17 species in the family Casuarinaceae, native to Australasia, southeast Asia, and islands of the western Pacific Ocean. It was once treated as the sole genus in the family, but has been split into three genera .They are evergreen shrubs and trees growing to 35 m tall...

, coconut
Coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

, and various deciduous
Deciduous
Deciduous means "falling off at maturity" or "tending to fall off", and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, and to the shedding of other plant structures such as petals after flowering or fruit when ripe...

 trees, along with ants, cockroaches, termites, centipedes, and countless others.

Later that year, President Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

 placed the atoll under the control of the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

, which on 20 January 1903 opened a radio station in response to complaints from cable company workers about Japanese
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

 squatters and poachers
Poaching
Poaching is the illegal taking of wild plants or animals contrary to local and international conservation and wildlife management laws. Violations of hunting laws and regulations are normally punishable by law and, collectively, such violations are known as poaching.It may be illegal and in...

. Between 1904 to 1908 Roosevelt stationed 21 Marines
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 on the island to end wanton destruction of bird life and keep Midway safe as a U.S. possession
United States territory
United States territory is any extent of region under the jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, including all waters including all U.S. Naval carriers. The United States has traditionally proclaimed the sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its...

, protecting the cable station.

In 1935, operations began for the China Clipper
China Clipper
The China Clipper was the first of three Martin M-130 four-engine flying boats built for Pan American Airways and was used to inaugurate the first commercial transpacific air service from San Francisco to Manila in November, 1935. Built at a cost of $417,000 by the Glenn L...

s, flying boat
Flying boat
A flying boat is a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water. It differs from a float plane as it uses a purpose-designed fuselage which can float, granting the aircraft buoyancy. Flying boats may be stabilized by under-wing floats or by wing-like projections from the fuselage...

s operated by Pan American Airlines. The Clippers island-hopped from San Francisco to China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, providing the fastest and most luxurious route to the Orient and bringing tourists to Midway until 1941. Only the extremely wealthy could afford a Clipper trip, which in the 1930s cost more than three times the annual salary of an average American. With Midway on the route between Honolulu and Wake Island
Wake Island
Wake Island is a coral atoll having a coastline of in the North Pacific Ocean, located about two-thirds of the way from Honolulu west to Guam east. It is an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States, administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior...

, the seaplanes landed in the atoll and pulled up to a float offshore in the lagoon. Tourists transferred to a small powerboat that ferried them to a pier, then rode in "woody" wagons to the Pan Am Hotel or the "Gooneyville Lodge", named after the ubiquitous "Gooney birds" (albatross
Albatross
Albatrosses, of the biological family Diomedeidae, are large seabirds allied to the procellariids, storm-petrels and diving-petrels in the order Procellariiformes . They range widely in the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific...

es).

World War II


The location of Midway in the Pacific became important to the military. Midway was a convenient refueling stop on transpacific flights, and was also an important stop for Navy ships. Beginning in 1940, as tensions with the Japanese were rising, Midway was deemed second only to Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

 in importance to protecting the U.S. west coast. Airstrips, gun emplacements and a seaplane base quickly materialized on the tiny atoll. The channel was widened, and Naval Air Station Midway was completed. Architect Albert Kahn designed the Officer's quarters, the mall and several other hangars and buildings. Midway was also an important submarine base. Midway's importance to the U.S. was brought into focus on December 7, 1941 with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

. Midway was attacked
First Bombardment of Midway
The First Bombardment of Midway, or the First Bombardment of Sand Island, or Attack on Midway, was a small land and sea engagement of World War II. It occurred on the very first day of the Pacific War, 7 December 1941, not long after the major Battle of Pearl Harbor. Two Imperial Japanese...

 for the first time on December 7, 1941, and the Japanese force was successfully repulsed in the first American victory of the war. A Japanese submarine bombarded Midway on February 10, 1942. Four months later, on June 4, 1942, a naval battle near Midway resulted in the U.S. Navy exacting a devastating defeat of the Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

. Four capital Japanese aircraft carriers, namely , , and were sunk, along with the loss of hundreds of other Japanese aircraft, losses that the Japanese could not, and would never be able to replace. The US lost the aircraft carrier in retaliation, along with a number of their carrier and land-based aircraft the Japanese either shot down or bombarded through dive-bombing towards the airfields by aircraft, mostly of Hiryu. The Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

 was, by most accounts, the beginning of the end of the Japanese Navy's control of the Pacific Ocean.

Korean and Vietnam Wars



From August 1, 1941 to 1945, it was occupied by U.S. military forces. In 1950, the Navy decommissioned Naval Air Station Midway, only to re-commission it again to support the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. Thousands of troops on ships and planes stopped at Midway for refueling and emergency repairs. From 1968 to September 10, 1993, Midway Island was a Navy Air Facility. During the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, the U.S. established an underwater listening post at Midway to track Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 submarines. The facility remained secret until its demolition at the end of the Cold War. U.S. Navy WV-2 (EC-121K) "Willy Victor" radar planes flew night and day as an extension of the DEW Line (Distant Early Warning Line
Distant Early Warning Line
The Distant Early Warning Line, also known as the DEW Line or Early Warning Line, was a system of radar stations in the far northern Arctic region of Canada, with additional stations along the North Coast and Aleutian Islands of Alaska, in addition to the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland...

), and antenna fields covered the islands.

With about 3,500 people living on Sand Island, Midway also supported the U.S. troops during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. In June 1969, President Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 held a secret meeting with South Vietnam
South Vietnam
South Vietnam was a state which governed southern Vietnam until 1975. It received international recognition in 1950 as the "State of Vietnam" and later as the "Republic of Vietnam" . Its capital was Saigon...

ese President Nguyen Van Thieu
Nguyen Van Thieu
Nguyễn Văn Thiệu was president of South Vietnam from 1965 to 1975. He was a general in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam , became head of a military junta, and then president after winning a fraudulent election...

 at the Officer-in-Charge house or "Midway House".

Civilian jurisdiction


In 1978, the Navy downgraded Midway from a Naval Air Station to a Naval Air Facility and large numbers of personnel and dependents began leaving the island. With the war in Vietnam over, and with the introduction of reconnaissance satellites and nuclear submarines, Midway's significance to U.S.-national security was diminished. The World War II facilities at Sand and Eastern Islands were listed on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

 on May 28, 1987.

Midway was designated an overlay National Wildlife Refuge
National Wildlife Refuge
National Wildlife Refuge is a designation for certain protected areas of the United States managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the world's premiere system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife and plants...

 on April 22, 1988 while still under the primary jurisdiction of the Navy. As part of the Base Realignment and Closure
Base Realignment and Closure
Base Realignment and Closure is a process of the United States federal government directed at the administration and operation of the Armed Forces, used by the United States Department of Defense and Congress to close excess military installations and realign the total asset inventory to reduce...

 process, the Navy facility
SOSUS
SOSUS, an acronym for Sound Surveillance System, is a chain of underwater listening posts across the northern Atlantic Ocean near Greenland, Iceland and the United Kingdom — the GIUK gap. It was originally operated by the United States Navy for tracking Soviet submarines, which had to pass...

 on Midway has been operationally closed since September 10, 1993, although the Navy assumed responsibility for cleaning up environmental contamination at Naval Air Facility Midway Island.
Beginning August 7, 1996, the general public could visit the atoll through study ecotours
Ecotourism
Ecotourism is a form of tourism visiting fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas, intended as a low impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial tourism...

. This program ended in 2002, but another visitor program was approved and began operating in March 2008.

On October 31, 1996, President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 signed Executive Order 13022, which transferred the jurisdiction and control of the atoll to the U.S. Department of the Interior
United States Department of the Interior
The United States Department of the Interior is the United States federal executive department of the U.S. government responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native...

. The Fish and Wildlife Service assumed management of the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. The last contingent of Navy personnel left Midway on June 30, 1997 after an ambitious environmental cleanup program was completed.

On June 15, 2006, President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 designated the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a national monument. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument encompasses 105564 sqnmi, and includes 3910 sqnmi of coral reef habitat. The Monument also includes the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

In 2007, the Monument's name was changed to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The National Monument is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the State of Hawaii.

On 16 June 2011, a Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines, Inc. is a major airline based in the United States and headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The airline operates an extensive domestic and international network serving all continents except Antarctica. Delta and its subsidiaries operate over 4,000 flights every day...

 747 from Honolulu to Osaka, Japan with 380 passengers and crew made an emergency landing
Emergency landing
An emergency landing is a landing made by an aircraft in response to a crisis which either interferes with the operation of the aircraft or involves sudden medical emergencies necessitating diversion to the nearest airport.-Types of emergency landings:...

 at Henderson Field
Henderson Field (Midway Atoll)
Henderson Field is a public airport located on Sand Island in Midway Atoll, an unincorporated territory of the United States. The airport was once used as an emergency diversion point for ETOPS operations. It is subsidized by Boeing...

.

Wildlife


Midway Atoll is now home to 67-70% of the world's Laysan Albatross
Laysan Albatross
The Laysan Albatross, Phoebastria immutabilis, is a large seabird that ranges across the North Pacific. This small two-tone gull-like albatross is the second most common seabird in the Hawaiian Islands, with an estimated population of 2.5 million birds, and is currently expanding its range to new...

 population, and 34-39% of the global Black-footed Albatross
Black-footed Albatross
The Black-footed Albatross, Phoebastria nigripes, is a large seabird from the North Pacific of the albatross family Diomedeidae. It is one of three species of albatross that range in the northern hemisphere, nesting on isolated tropical islands...

.

While Midway supports nearly three million birds, each seabird species has carved out a specific site on the atoll in which to nest. Seventeen different species of seabird can be found, the rarest of which is the Short-tailed Albatross
Short-tailed Albatross
The Short-tailed Albatross or Steller's Albatross, Phoebastria albatrus, is a large rare seabird from the North Pacific. Although related to the other North Pacific albatrosses, it also exhibits behavioural and morphological links to the albatrosses of the Southern Ocean...

, otherwise known as the “Golden Gooney.” Fewer than 2,200 are believed to exist due to excessive feather hunting in the late nineteenth century.

Over 250 different species of marine life are found in the 300000 acres (121,405.8 ha) of lagoon and surrounding waters. The critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal
Hawaiian Monk Seal
The Hawaiian monk seal, Monachus schauinslandi, is an endangered species of earless seal in the Phocidae family that is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands....

s raise their pups on the beaches. Monk seals are benthic
Benthos
Benthos is the community of organisms which live on, in, or near the seabed, also known as the benthic zone. This community lives in or near marine sedimentary environments, from tidal pools along the foreshore, out to the continental shelf, and then down to the abyssal depths.Many organisms...

 foragers and rely on the Midway Atoll’s reef fish, squid, octopus and crustaceans. Green sea turtles, another threatened species, occasionally nest on the island. The first was found in 2006 on Spit Island and another in 2007 on Sand Island. A resident pod of 300 spinner dolphin
Spinner Dolphin
The Spinner Dolphin is a small dolphin found in off-shore tropical waters around the world. It is famous for its acrobatic displays in which they spin longitudinally along their axis as they leap through the air.-Taxonomy:...

s live in the lagoons and nearshore waters.

Ironwood
Casuarinaceae
Casuarinaceae is a family of dicotyledonous flowering plants placed in the order Fagales, consisting of 3 or 4 genera and approximately 70 species of trees and shrubs native to the Old World tropics , Australia, and the Pacific Islands...

 trees from Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 were planted to act as windbreaks. Seventy-five percent of the 200 species of plants on Midway were introduced. The FWS has recently re-introduced the endangered Laysan Duck
Laysan Duck
The Laysan Duck , also known as the Laysan Teal because of its small size, is an endangered dabbling duck endemic to the Hawaiian Islands...

 (Midway is part of its assumed pre-historic range) to the Atoll, while at the same time extending efforts to exterminate invasive plant species.

Environmental issues



The islands of Midway Atoll have been extensively altered as a result of human habitation. Starting in 1869 with a project to blast the reefs and create a port on Sand Island, the ecology of Midway has been changing.

Marine debris


Midway Atoll, in common with all the Hawaiian Islands
Hawaiian Islands
The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and undersea seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500 miles from the island of Hawaii in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll...

, receives substantial amounts of marine debris
Marine debris
Marine debris, also known as marine litter, is human created waste that has deliberately or accidentally become afloat in a lake, sea, ocean or waterway. Oceanic debris tends to accumulate at the centre of gyres and on coastlines, frequently washing aground, when it is known as beach litter or...

 from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a gyre of marine litter in the central North Pacific Ocean located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N to 42°N...

. Consisting of ninety percent plastic, this debris accumulates on the beaches of Midway. This garbage represents a hazard to the bird population of the island.

Of the 1.5 million Laysan Albatrosses that inhabit Midway, nearly all are found to have plastic in their digestive system.
Approximately one-third of the chicks die.

Lead poisoning


Lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 paint on the buildings still poses an environmental hazard (avian lead poisoning) to the albatross population of the island. The cost of stripping the paint is estimated to be $5 million. It was announced in September 2010 that the federal government would plan to carry out the cleanup by July 2011.

2011 tsunami


The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, also known as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, or the Great East Japan Earthquake, was a magnitude 9.0 undersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST on Friday, 11 March 2011, with the epicenter approximately east...

 caused many deaths among the bird population on Midway. Researchers had ample warning prior to the tsunami. Scientists on the island however do not think it will have long-term negative impacts on the bird populations.

Transportation


The usual method of reaching Sand Island, Midway Atoll's only populated island, is via Henderson Field Airport
Henderson Field (Midway Atoll)
Henderson Field is a public airport located on Sand Island in Midway Atoll, an unincorporated territory of the United States. The airport was once used as an emergency diversion point for ETOPS operations. It is subsidized by Boeing...

.

See also

  • The Wrecker
    The Wrecker (novel)
    The Wrecker is a novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson in collaboration with his stepson Lloyd Osbourne. The story is a 'sprawling, episodic adventure story, a comedy of brash manners and something of a detective mystery'. It revolves around the abandoned wreck of the Flying Scud at Midway Island...

    is an 1892 novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
    Robert Louis Stevenson
    Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His best-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde....

     set on Midway (called "Middle Brooks and Lower Brooks Island").

External links