Day 9 – Arts and Crafts

January 24, 2012


Today was a lazy fun day. Waking up in time for breakfast but not unbelievable early I enjoyed chatting with the Fish and Wildlife Service employees over eggs. Heading back to the barracks I strolled along the albatross and said hello to my now long time friends.

This morning’s activity was arts and crafts with marine debris. When we cleaned up the closed beaches we set aside great buoys and cool scraps and then the boys carted them off to the dump unaware to us. So we set off for a two-hour adventure with the birds in search of art-worthy plastic.

Unfortunately, plastic is not hard to come by. A few of us decided to head down to the airplane runway, stopping to see the lost Brandt’s goose – who was absolutely adorable and possibly hurt. Our main goal of plastic was thwarted momentarily when we spotted by the short-tailed albatross.

I might have mentioned him before, but let me re-emphasize. He is freaking awesome. He looks like an overgrown toddler wandering in search of his mother – really he is just much larger than the other species and is in search of a mate. Later, we learned that he enjoys scaring the Black-footed albatross from their nests, sitting on their eggs essentially playing house and then leaving once he’s bored. Oh, and we just think it’s a “he”. They have taken DNA samples but we have heard mixed results from different people. No one will truly know until it mates and either lays and egg or does not.

Upon returning from our excursion, we camped out on a concrete slab and laid out our goods. We made a yellow-fin tuna, sea turtle, blue dolphin, green marlin jumping out of the water and a pinwheel of color. It was sad to think that all of this trash is just a fragment of what is swirling around the ocean; however, reusing it for art is fun!

After lunch we headed over to Eastern Island, another island in the atoll. This island is very different from Sand Island (the main island we are staying on) in that is was only ever used as a runway so there are less invasive plants and looks similar to the original island landscape. However, upon closer inspection you can see the concrete running underneath then dirt and between the plants that have cropped up in cracks. You start to notice birds limping from the harsh landings on such a hard surface.

We stopped by the monument and took a moment of silence to remember those soldiers stationed on Eastern Island. These men thought they were facing certain death and were unaware of the help that was on its way to save them. Stopping to think about how that would feel, I cannot even imagine.

We then wondered around the island, taking care of the birds – these are not as used to humans and are therefore much more snippy than the albatross we have grown accustomed to (I got bit twice, for example). We stopped to look at the Laysan duck seeps – freshwater seeps used to attract this certain species of duck to the island – and took care to spot any birds we had not already seen.

After spending time watching the Fairy Turns flit around our heads and the Red-footed Boobies investigate our group we trekked over to a look out of the nested Short-tailed albatross. The male is currently on the nest; he is the older version of the juvenile on Sand Island and his bright golden head looks painted on – there were six other decoys in the same area and many people confused the decoys for the real thing.

We were not able to get close to the male due to the fact that he was skittish and we did not want to scare him from his fatherly duties. We took a roundabout way back to the boat, stopping at “pillbox”. These boxes are more like round domes with holes punched out in random places. An underground tube serves as the opening to the pillbox and one student decided to crawl in. Soldiers would sit in the pillboxes, guns poking out the holes, waiting for the Japanese to arrive to fight to the death.

Our hike back to the boat served as a means to hunt for glass floats, with no luck. Glass floats are held in highest reverence. Japanese fishermen used to use them for their boats, but now use plastic floats. Most of the glass floats are out at sea or safely tucked away in visitor’s homes, however, every now and then people get lucky and spot one.

We ended our day with a pre-dinner swim on North Beach, the open beach in front of the bar and dinning hall. Staying clear of the monk seal hauled out 200 feet down the beach from us, we enjoyed the crisp coolness of the clear water and laid out on the beach basking in what little sun was left of the day.


For awesome pictures and more info on the day, go here.