12 Jul

Plastic Beach / Kickstarter Call to Action

Hello everyone and thank you so much for your support.

We wanted to share with you this disturbing video captured by our team on Midway. A beach “cleanup” quickly reveals both the real magnitude of the plastic pollution problem and the shocking fact that we humans are also eating plastic junk, not only figuratively, but quite literally as well.

**CALL TO ACTION** Over 1,200 donors have pledged close to $80,000 to help fund our film. Thank you so much!!

With only 5 days to go (!!) it is critical to enlist more donors as soon as possible! Please visit our Kikstarter and share the link with your networks(on facebook, by email, etc)


We really need a final push to reach our goal! Your help is essential to us. Thank you so much!!

The Midway Team

13 Dec

Plastic Beach

In the Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king who was cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity.

A beach cleanup on Midway Atoll made us feel just like Sisyphus.

There are millions of tons of plastics present in our oceans, and these are constantly fragmenting into smaller and smaller pieces which are scattered throughout the water column and present, in different densities, throughout all the worlds oceans.

Contrary to what many people believe, there are no visible islands of trash anywhere –even if some areas, the gyres, accumulate higher densities of plastic pollution. In actuality, what is happening is much more complex and scary: our oceans are becoming a planetary soup laced with plastic.

To make thing worse, these tiny pieces of plastic are extremely powerful chemical accumulators for organic persistent pollutants present in ambient sea water such as DDE‘s and PCB‘s. The whole food chain, invertebrates, fish, sea turtles… are eating plastic and /or other animals who have plastic in them. This means that we are. Like the albatrosses on Midway, we carry the garbage patch inside of us.

Cleaning up this mess is not feasible, technically or economically. Even if all the boats in the world were put to the task somehow, the cleanup would not only remove the plastics but also the plankton, which is the base of the food chain, and is responsible for capturing half of the CO2 of our atmosphere and generating half of the oxygen we need to breathe.

But even if this problem was solved too somehow, the amount of plastic that we could capture, at an immense cost, would be a drop in the bucket as compared to the amount that flows into the ocean every day.

No matter how hard we push, in terms of technology or money, the boulder will be rolling back down the hill, throughout eternity, unless we stop putting more plastics into our environment.

The good news is that we can do this. We can do this now. We need to start a social movement that spreads virally and creates a critical mass of concerned citizens who pledge to move away from our disposable habits, and who raise their voice to reject and reverse a throwaway culture that might be profitable, but whose consequences are intolerable.

Video by Jan Vozenilek
Written and narrated by: Manuel Maqueda
Music by Christen Lien www.itsnotaviolin.com

Click here to see a satellite image of the exact location of this video (click on ‘view map’ and zoom all the way in.)

21 Oct

First photos released!

Chris has released and posted on his website a selection of his photographs under the title “Message from the Gyre”.

In Chris’ words:

These photographs of albatross chicks were made just a few weeks ago on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific. The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking.

To document this phenomenon as faithfully as possible, not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way. These images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world’s most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent.

More details on Chris’ photography ethic can be found here.

The full selection of photographs released to date can be viewed here.


16 Oct

Midway Brushstrokes 2

In the midst of the tragedy of plastic pollution on Midway, Jan Vozenilek’s camera tuns, for an instant, to the triumph of life over decay.

During our journey, Jan would occasionally steal away from the group, and wander alone in the island with his camera.  The rest of us would wonder where he was, and what kind of footage he would be capturing.

The scenes on Brushstrokes 2 speak of moments of intimacy, where the cinematographer is alone in the field, tuning into the pulse of the land, and letting its natural beauty tell an ancient story of survival and renewal.

In this short video lies a reverence for nature so profound, that our eye has to concentrate on the small details, and peek shyly through blades of grass, lest the direct contemplation of the greatness of it all be overwhelming.  As we watch, we feel the emergence of that peculiar sense wonder that is often thought to belong only to childhood.  A sense of awe and discovery that we are taught to suppress and forget as we grow up.

As time slows down, and the rays of golden light fall gently on the tortured landscape of Midway, subtle brushstrokes of natural beauty are painted over a canvas too many times torn and blotted by the blindness of man.

Video by Jan Vozenilek. Music by Vanessa LeBourdais.

27 Sep

A visit to Eastern Island

Midway Atoll is actually composed of two small islands, Sand Island -which is the largest and the only one inhabited- and Eastern Island, slightly over one mile long, and separated from Sand Island by a narrow channel that provides access to the interior of the lagoon.

Matt Brown, Manager of the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, took us on a tour of Eastern Island as he and two volunteers inspected three fresh water ponds occupied by extremely rare and endangered Laysan Ducks.  Eastern Island is entirely crisscrossed by abandoned runways dating back to World War II, today almost unrecognizable under a layer of vegetation that grows through cracks in the pavement.  While nature slowly triumphs over dilapidated asphalt, iron and cement, Eastern Island has not escaped the onslaught of plastic pollution, which is present everywhere.

Video by Bill Weaver. Cinematography by Jan Vozenilek. Voiceover by Chris Jordan. Interviewee: Matt Brown. Music by Vanessa LeBourdais.

22 Sep

A Glimpse of the Tragedy

Until now, we have not shown the carcasses of the albatross chicks that Chris Jordan has been photographing, stuffed with plastic beyond belief.

So much plastic, and in such bizarre combinations of objects and colors, that we recently posted a video in which Chris explains his photography ethic: no plastic is added to any photo, and the plastic is never rearranged.

It will be more than a month before Chris’ photos are processed and released. This morning Chris decided to offer a glimpse of what these carcasses look like.

21 Sep


In the middle of the Pacific lies a sandy island, where seabirds and humans mingle in a process of renewal and soul-searching.  A place where the middle of nowhere becomes not only the middle of somewhere, but the heart of everything.

Midway Atoll is a place of ancient power. A revered elder in a long dynasty of fire that once stretched from Kure Atoll to Kaua’i.  Flowers of molten lava that bloomed and decayed with the long seasons of geology, and left a marine landscape strewn with exquisite petals of azure.

In the Hawaiian tradition, the rosary of atolls that form the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands represents a long lineage of Kupuna, ancestors, that live a solitary life, like hermits, in the heart of  Papahanaumokuakea,  the place where the union of Papa, the mother Earth, and Wakea, the paternal sky, “gives birth to the islands in the vast expanses”.  For the natives, this long line of small islands is not only the umbilical cord to their past, but also a series of stepping stones along an ancient route that leads their souls to the netherworld.  Leaping from island to island, the spirits of the dead advance westwards towards their meeting with Po, the great darkness, where they reunite with their dead relatives.

Understanding the significance of Midway in the Hawaiian tradition has added many layers of meaning to our journey.  Layers that fit together perfectly, even if we look at Midway from a literal perspective.  After all, the Hawaiian view of this island as an old elder has been corroborated by geology; and the notion that this place is a living organism fits perfectly with James Lovelock’s theories.

MidwayJourney_Manuel_Maqueda_day3 1As for the souls and spirits that inhabit this place, they are present in every decaying building, in every trembling blade of grass that breaks through the tarmac of an abandoned runway, and in every glorious sunset over the turquoise waters of the lagoon.  Even those who don’t believe in the supernatural often feel a chill going down their spine when a white tern flutters and swoops over their heads, so close that one can feel a delicate whiff of warm wind with every flap of their wings of pure white.

And yet Midway is a land raped and tortured by man. A land destroyed, rebuilt, exploited, deformed and, these days, covered with rotting carcasses of albatross chicks full of plastic.  It is a hub for an intricate web of messages and  symbols that we came here to explore.  A place for witnessing, a place for learning, and a place, perhaps, for redemption.

I write these lines as we leave behind the middle point of our journey, and enter our final week on the island. By degrees, the pressure of accomplishing the tangible goals of our expedition is subsiding. And simultaneously, I feel the urgency to pursue and share the intangible.

I hope that sharing with you the significance of Midway in the Hawaiian tradition is a good place to start.  After all, who would have thought that here, where the union of Papa and Wakea gave birth to a tiny island in the vast expanses, the middle of nowhere could become not only the middle of somewhere, but also the beginning of everything?

-Manuel Maqueda

20 Sep

Midway through the lens of Kittipong Janthasang

A large percentage of the permanent residents of Midway are Thai workers, hired by a company called Chugach which provides many services to the island, from maintenance, to food and lodging.

kittipong_1Kittipong Janthasang is a Bangkok native who has lived on Midway for three years. We can find him pulling invasive weeds from the fields and also bartending at the island’s only pub during its brief hours of operation. Kittipong’s passion, however, is wildlife photography. In his spare time, he goes out with his camera and patiently and delicately captures intimate portraits of the natural beauty of Midway. Amazing photos that, until now, were confined to his laptop, and shared only with his friends on the island. It has been an honor for us at Midway Journey to discover the excellent body of photographic work by Kittipong, and to have the opportunity to post a selection of his images online for the first time, in the form of this slide show.

Kittipong’s photographic work conveys a contagious, heartfelt reverence for nature, and offers the viewer a rare and invaluable look into the immense natural wealth of Midway.

Photography by Kittipong Janthasang. Slide Show edited by Jan Vozenilek.  Music by Christen Lien.

Those interested in Kittipong’s photography can contact him at kittipong-p at hotmail dot com.