Day 5 – I’m never leaving this place

January 20, 2012


Our first day on Midway. Waking up to the sound of albatross dancing, eating delicious food at the Clipper House, and escorted to the Fish and Wildlife Visitors Center (via limo, of course) for island orientation.

We were told a little bit about the island – its history as a naval base and then in the commercial era as a vacation destination. We were told that the island started out as nothing more than sand and bunch grass and that the original cable company (the one that helped decipher the Japanese code) brought in mounds of top soil from other islands and completely recreated the ecosystem. Ironwood trees were established to break up the wind and verbaceena stowed away in the soil. These plants would grow to wreak havoc on the island years later.

We then walked over to the equipment hangar for bikes. Most everyone here rides bikes around the island. Next most popular are golf carts and lastly, farm equipment such as Gators.

The bikes are vintage. Mine is a stylish white women’s bike that has allowed me to master the art of gracefully dismounting while still in slight motion – everyone is very impressed.

After biking around the island to tour a little more we satiated our appetites that seem to have grown overnight. According to our professor, it is just Midway, you’re always hungry here. It might have something to do with the phenomenal food. The chefs are from Thailand and everything we eat is delicious. They even go out of their way to make vegetarian options specifically for the three veggies in our group!

It seemed the day could not get any better. And then it did. With the weather holding beautifully we hoped on a boat and made our way out to the far end of the atoll for snorkeling. On our way we stopped to enjoy the pod of spinner dolphins showing off. These dolphins are named for their spinning motion; the motion is supposedly used to wake the other dolphins in the pod and get them excited for the nights’ foraging festivities.

Interesting tidbit: these are the dolphins people travel hundreds of miles to swim with in Hawaii. However, they sleep during the day using the bays around Oahu and the Big Island as protection from predators during this vulnerable state. By swimming with them, humans have disrupted this pattern causing the dolphins to wake early and therefore not have enough energy for the long night of foraging.

We finished off the trip there, holding on for dear life in the waves, and got our gear together to jump in the water. I somehow missed the sea turtle welcoming crew, however, I did see some amazing fish.

Christmas Wrasse colored bright pink and green dodged between the rocks while sea cucumbers lazily hugged the sea floor. The water was so shallow and clear, the colors bright and vibrant with fish and coral close enough to touch.

Swimming forward against the current we were careful not to be sucked out to the other side of the reef. Not only are there sharks and larger predators on that side (even though they could care less and are the first to swim away from you), there is nothing between you and Japan – the whole open expanse of the Pacific.

Deeper waters gave room for more corals and schools of fish. A four-foot long Jack came to say hello, well, more like came over to say, “You don’t scare me so don’t mess with me”. Stopping by the remnants of a platform, used for core sampling and escaping the army wives, a large school of Convict Tangs joined us in our exploration. I missed it (I was trying not to be thrown into the pilings by the waves) but if you sat very still you could hear them picking at the corals.

After returning to the boat I stripped off my wetsuit and hopped back in the blue water. The temperature was much warmer than any of us expected and we just could not stay away.

The trip back held more spinners and green sea turtles, large waves and chilly ocean air. After a warm shower and delectable dinner, we headed to the ship store to stock up on souvenirs.

That night we explored the All Hands Club. A historical bar with rooms for the officers as well as multiple rooms for the army men to enjoy a beer and play games. Today, there is a bar and a stage (for the Chugach band) in one room and shuffleboard, pool tables and pinball machines in the other.

I went to bed on cloud 9. There is no way I’m going home any time soon (sorry!! But I’ll let you visit!)