You Can't Get There From Here Unless Your Plane Malfunctions
July 13, 2014 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Midway Atoll is full of history and unique fauna. It has been completely closed to visitors since Fish and Wildlife Service budget cuts in 2013. A United Airlines flight made an emergency landing there last week. Fortunately, Pete has been on-island giving us an inside perspective on both history and nature. Pete has moved on, but you can still keep up with Midway at FOMA.
posted by Xurando (14 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Ahhhh that video of the bird-infested landing on Tern Island ... no thank you
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:03 PM on July 13, 2014

I heard a documentarian speak about his film on Midway Atoll, the albatrosses, and the pacific garbage gyre a few years back. I don't know if it ever got finished, the website seems to be in stasis. What footage he did show displayed dire impact plastics are having on birds.
posted by pashdown at 4:19 PM on July 13, 2014

Not sure about the project but Chris Jordan's blog about the Midway film is here. I heard him speak about it in person a couple years ago and was very moved by it.

One wonders if the passengers got to explore at all - crazy place to have to land!
posted by leslies at 4:24 PM on July 13, 2014

Midway Atoll is the home of Wisdom, a Laysan Albatross who is the oldest known wild bird. 63 years old and still raising a chick nearly every year.

Fortunately, most of the young should be fledged by this point and not in danger of being hit by planes.
posted by tavella at 4:36 PM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I landed on Midway during a stopover on a military flight from Da Nang, Vietnam to the States in mid 1969. Birds were everywhere. A couple of us took a walk out to the golf course and found nesting birds all over the place. They weren't really afraid of us, but snapping beaks kept us from venturing too close.
posted by jgaiser at 4:53 PM on July 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

When Pan Am first started flying across the Pacific in 1935 (for mail, and 1936 for passengers), it took a week to get from San Francisco to Hong Kong by plane -- faster by far than the 25 days the fastest ships could manage. They stopped in Honolulu, Midway, Wake, Guam, Manila, and Macao en route. Night flying was extremely dangerous, especially over the Pacific where there were no landmarks or weather equipment to warn of storms, so the only overnight part of the route was the "long hop" from San Francisco to Honolulu, and to make that distance, the planes had to fly with 1/3 of their passenger capacity and well below their usual cruising speed.

This continued through WWII but after the war more sophisticated planes made that many stops unnecessary.

Anyway Pan Am built a really nice hotel there but it got knocked down by the Navy later on.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:52 PM on July 13, 2014 [10 favorites]

Anyway Pan Am built a really nice hotel there but it got knocked down by the Navy later on.

I heard they served a mean Rum Cannonball.
posted by valkane at 5:55 PM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is so cool. But now I have to read the entire blog. So, thanks... I think...
posted by freakazoid at 6:44 PM on July 13, 2014

I guess it's to be expected, but Google has a street view of Midway Islands. Lotta birds!
posted by stargell at 7:33 PM on July 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can still visit Palmyra Atoll.
posted by valkane at 7:42 PM on July 13, 2014

Looks like the passengers waited in an old gymnasium for 6 hours, all at nighttime, so they didn't get to see much of the island.

I've often wondered what it's like working for the company that runs the airstrip at Midway. These kinds of landings are very rare, so it must be an awful lot of waiting around doing nothing.
posted by zsazsa at 12:52 AM on July 14, 2014

It was named after the Laysan albatrosses that nest there -- their nickname is 'gooneybirds', and if you see them walking you can see why.
posted by tavella at 9:01 AM on July 14, 2014

"Here's one of the more ironic items that washed up. It says "keep our beaches clean" and "Heal the Bay". At least we are reusing it and filling it back up."

Ha, someone should contact Heal The Bay in Santa Monica and ask them if they'd like to have their (comic sans) beach bin shipped back for a small donation plus shipping charges.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:08 AM on July 14, 2014

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