satellite view from PMNM
E komo mai; welcome! Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is surrounded by a lei of foam in the middle of the North Pacific; it's a beautiful, special place.

Not only are there albatross on Midway, but many other interesting kinds of wildlife, both on the land and in the sea. Please enjoy exploring FOAM, an educational blog actively done while on Midway from May through August 2010. Posts are added from off-Midway, as information becomes available. If you're interested in a particular topic, please use the search box or the alphabetical list of "labels" along the left side of the blog page.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The resilience of life: post-tsunami reflections

area not impacted by tsunami
photo by Anna Liem
Guest blogger Anna with reflections on the Sendai tsunami's impact on Midway

We're all relieved to hear the USFWS announcement that Wisdom has returned safely to her nest after the tsunami, and was seen feeding her chick. Although the parents of the STAL chick on Eastern have not yet been sighted, USFWS is hopeful that they are still at sea gathering food and, like Wisdom, will eventually return.

Wisdom's return serves as a reminder that, while this year's cohort of chicks was undoubtedly severely impacted by the tsunami and the two heavy winter storms this year, there are still hundreds of thousands of breeding adults who survived and will continue to return to Midway and raise new chicks for years to come.

USFWS volunteer Ipo rescuing a waterlogged bird
photo by Anna Liem
When I look at the raw numbers, it seems strange that we spent so many hours rescuing what seems like a tiny handful of birds. USFWS rescued at least 50 waterlogged adult albatrosses from the lagoon, and USFWS and visitors alike freed over 200 trapped birds; however those numbers appear insignificant compared to the estimated 110,000 chicks and 2,000 adults thought to have been lost due to the tsunami and the severe winter storms of January and February.

But the numbers are only part of the story. Yes, the 300 birds we rescued are a tiny percentage of the birds impacted by the tsunami and the storms, but each of those birds is an individual, just like Wisdom, whom we managed to save. Perhaps we didn't make a huge difference to the albatross population, but we made a huge difference to those individual birds.

All those involved in the rescue efforts walked away with wounds on our hearts from seeing all the birds we couldn't save, but what we will strive to remember instead are the wounds on our arms from the bites of the frightened birds that we did save. I can hardly express the comfort I took and the satisfaction I felt in lifting a newly-freed chick, still covered in wood chips, from the debris and carrying it to safety. As I remember that feeling, it reminds me that, in the face of disaster, both the best and the least we can do is to try to save as many as we can.


maryg said...

I'm glad that those of you that could were able to save every bird that you could!

Randi said...

thank you, all, for being the arms, legs, and beating hearts on Midway for those of us who have left a bit of ourselves there, too. I miss the islands so much, and I miss the birds! I deeply appreciate knowing that I am but one link in a long chain of people caring for Papahanaumokuakea, and I look forward to going back some day.

Anonymous said...

You did make a HUGE difference to those individual birds - and those who care about them. Thank you for your effort!