It’s the end of Day 3 for us on Pihemanu (Midway Atoll) in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Pihemanu – “the loud din of birds” in Hawaiian – is relatively quiet now that the nearly 800,000 albatross are out to sea for the next few months. Other seabirds are easier to notice now. Terns, petrels, tropicbirds, frigatebirds and noddies are busy dancing and courting, feeding and raising their chicks. But their sound and motion is punctuated by the thousands of lifeless albatross scattered about the island, slowly revealing their cargo of plastic.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife rangers, albatross bring almost five tons of plastic to Pihemanu/Midway every year. The ocean is permeated with plastic and, like dust floating in the air, it’s mostly invisible to us. Albatross concentrate this plastic junk in their bodies and deposit it on land when they die. A Hawaiian elder counseled us not to view the albatross or the islands as victims of plastic pollution. They have called this problem to them, she said, to deliver us a message. We are hit with this message every day. When can we say we’re receiving it?
Victoria Sloan Jordan