Chris holds plastic pieces removed from a days-old albatross chick.
Although it is only February, Spring has arrived for the albatross on Midway. It’s birthing season and hundreds of thousands of chicks are hatching over the next two weeks on every available square meter of island. It’s an ecstatic time and we’ve spent our first few days photographing and filming the cuteness, buoyed by the sheer, bubbling abundance of chicks breathing into the world for the first time. And among all the nests rustling with new life, the juvenile albatross dance their courtship routines, clapping, clattering, popping, cracking and whistling in a ’round the clock celebration complete with the sounds of fireworks.
We are caught up in all this lushness and fluff. It is almost as if the plastic horror has vanished. Barely a bottle cap or toothbrush can be spotted among all the green growth. In fact, plastic carried here in the bellies of albatross in years past (5 tons per year by Fish & Wildlife estimations) still remains but has gone underground. Grass and weeds have grown up, sand and soil have shifted, covering much of the evidence. But today: a dead chick curled in its nest, a few days old, at most. Inside its stomach we found four shards of plastic large enough to block tiny organs. Large enough that on a human scale it would be equal to eating a few credit cards for dinner. We were shocked to discover that plastic made up one of the first meals for this chick, and saddened to realize what this means for the other chicks just coming into the world on Midway.