Why Midway

Midway Atoll is a collection of three small islands in the North Pacific, and one of the most remote places on earth. In many ways, this film could be shot in many places on the planet where we find tragedy and despair, but here- about halfway between the U.S. and Asia- on an island teeming with life and wonder, it is the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

Midway Atoll is located near the apex of what is being called the Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling soup of millions of tons of plastic pollution. In fact, much of this plastic can not be seen at, but it can’t be avoided as it comes ashore on these pristine beaches and in the stomachs of the birds. The islands are literally covered with plastic garbage, illustrating on several levels the interconnectedness and interdependence of the systems on our finite planet.

The ironies are unmistakable- the first trans-atlantic cable was connected here on Midway; the scars from the Battle of Midway are unmistakable. Yet now, as a protected area, we can’t help but look at the role this island had in the past, and think about where we are today. This place, a historic moment in World War II, stands a turning point that launched America’s economic dominance of the 20th Century. And so it is here, sitting halfway between the consumers of North America and the consumers of Asia, that we get to stop and consider some of the unintentional consequences of growth, and the responsibilities that we have for our planet.

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28 Comments

  1. Jenny Kennedy
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jay
    This is Jenny and I got your name and info from Andi, my friend at Rooftop School where I teach 5th grade. I used to live on Midway Island when my dad was stationed there in the late 1960′s. My dad was a pilot, and because he loved flying, he was fascinated with birds. I have footage of albatross (we used to call them “goonie birds”) taking off and landing on Midway. In this same video, dad filmed fairy terns, bos’n birds, and frigates. It was all so beautiful then. I have looked at most of your website, and it just breaks my heart to see my former home, where I swam every day, with all this plastic garbage – and the dead albatross – it’s all so sad… Please feel free to contact me if you want. Andi says you might come to Rooftop someday. I’d love to meet you and talk to you about Midway. Jenny

  2. Miss Rosie
    Posted May 12, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    My parents lived on Midway in the 60′s while my Pop was in the Navy.

  3. Murphy
    Posted June 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I lived on Midway from 1961-69 in one of cable building. Last time I looked Midway was still in the Pacific ” the ironies are unmistakable-the first trans- atlantic cable was connected here on Midway”

  4. Jerry Baber
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    I had the great opportunity to live on Midway from March 1972 to June 1974.
    I was a weather observer in the Navy. I lived in Charlie Barracks and worked
    in the Weather Office(NWSED) which was located on the second floor of the
    hanger. I also got to revisit Midway in April 2000 for a week. It is a shame
    that Midway is no longer open to the public.

  5. Posted November 27, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Such a powerful message and so needed. I would love to help in some way and will be thinking on this. I will promote this cause in whatever way I am able.

  6. Elliot Porter
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    You are doing great work, a very important project.
    I was not aware of this, although I have done a deal research on the cable history.
    However, with regard to your website comments on the undersea telegraph cable:
    it is the [trans-] Pacific Ocean cable,not the Atlantic. The company was the Commercial Pacific Cable Company and it was the second, not first, trans-Pacific cable. The All Red Route, owned by a British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand consortium [the Pacific Cable Board] built and complete their trans-Pacific almost two years earlier.

    All the best,

  7. Clarance Levingston3
    Posted January 23, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    I turned 8years old in oct 1972 while my father was stationd on midway we lived in petty officer housing D- 18 # 6308 accross from the old baseball field. my father is MCB-5 Clarance Albert Levingston JR, and he worked with the security MPs for a short time. I dont know if you new him but my family loved living on Midway. The memories of Midway and the friends we mad will always be rememberd. If anyone remembers my family please contact me ambernbert@yahoo.com, I’d love to here from anyone thanks

  8. Susan Jordan
    Posted February 13, 2012 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    Thinking of you all the time. Love the new little hatching Miguel. Can’t wait to hear all about it as soon as you get back. Keep well and safe, love to you and Victoria.
    xxxxooooo Ma.

  9. sarah joyce
    Posted April 2, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    I am so moved by the plight of the birds on Midway and the absolute horror of plastic garbage accumulating everywhere. Thank you for bringing this to us…beautiful and insightful.

  10. Posted April 3, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Nous ne savons pas comment vous pouvez supporter cette vision sur le terrain. Ne gardez pas ces images pour vous, elles doivent voyager comme voyagent au grès des courants, tout ces objets qui sèment la mort…
    Amicalament

  11. Posted April 5, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I was stationed on Midway Island with the US Navy in 1979-80. The birds were phenomenal and they had the same problem then as they do now…plastic garbage, much of it tossed from ships or barges. We also had a tremendous rat problem…they were the size of small cats and were not afraid of people. Midway has some of the most beautiful beaches and interesting wildlife. I remember swimming and finding myself in the company of seals and sharks. It was a an eye-opener on how beautiful yet cruel nature can be…and even more so when you throw in people and their garbage.

  12. Cdr. Wm. B. Sewall,
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I flew from Midway from 1957 to 1959 in the navy WV-2 Super Constellation aircraft as a pilot. We had a good bit of crew rest time which I spent mostly in the water, and watching the birds. The Layson Albatross (Goonie bird) are beautiful birds and very entertaining to watch
    I hope your project comes to a successful conlclusion and that, somehow, mankind can begin to clean up the mess we have made in the pacific.
    Good luck!
    W. Bryant Sewall
    Plano, Texas

  13. Camilla Loyolla
    Posted May 31, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Hi, Chris and team
    I was surfing the net looking for some photographies and just got hit accidentally by this project of yours and would like to say that it has changed my day, perhaps my hole point of view. I forwarded it to my husband right away. It’s an amazing work, I work with media as well and I’d like to congratulate you and all the crew who’s been doing so much effort to show this reality to the world. I myself live in a very polluted city (São Paulo, Brazil) and only few times a year can go on vacation to some sunny far away beach and pretend nature there is untouched. But it’s really ver very sad to see that even this remote, distant island, is suffering from our actions. It makes us really understand the complecity of nature, and see that earth is a, a you said yourself, finite plant. It really needs us to take care of it better. Thank you for this amazing work, it was very very inspiring. Camilla

  14. Kurt Wenzing
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    You are fighting a courageous, but seemingly hopeless, battle against some terrible enemies and the mess they left in the Pacific. I have a suggestion: only much money from major countries can clean up this mess. Can you get your message to the U.S. Congress and the legislatures in other major countries? That is the only thing I can think of that can raise sufficient money to accomplish this very important goal.

    You certainly may use my name if you desire. I would be willing to put my name etc on a petition to our Congress members.

  15. Diogo Bolinhas
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I discovered yesterday what is happening on Midway Island and it is terrible! I will share the video with my friends and talk about it with verypne I know. I am portuguese and I will make sure that Portugal know what is happening!

  16. Posted July 8, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    My yoga instructor Tim Hurley forwarded the link to the Midway trailer. While I have no direct connection to Midway, it breaks my heart to know of and see so much suffering. I look forward to learning more about what I can do to make a difference. May my small contribution be joined by many more.

    Vickii Engel Thomas
    The Center for Healing Arts
    Wesminter, Maryland

  17. Posted July 19, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Hi I was stationed on Midway from about August 1972 to November 1973 and I worked down at the harbor on the tugboats and lived in the barracks there. I use to also stand watch in the watch tower down at the harbor. Does anyone who was there at that time remember early 1973 the the recuse of the two men that a Libarian ship rescued at sea and the one mans wife died about three weeks before they were rescued. The three people left San Pedro California and turned over in a storm and hung on to the side of there sailboat for 76 days before rescue. The two survivors were brought to Midway and we went out on the Tugboat and brought them in to be flowen to Hawaii for treatment. I mentioned because I still have some old short movie clips and have always wanted to find them or there family to give it to them. Anyway I also remember after a storm walking around the island searching for fish balls and of course who could forget the gooney bird.

    Tracy.

  18. Donna Flick
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    I lived on Midway in 1964. I was there when President Kennedy was shot – I remember the principal making the announcment and then seeing my teacher, Miss Howerton, coming into our classroom in tears. We were all told to go home – my father was a pilot so he wasn’t there – just my mother in tears.
    While that was a profound moment my overall life on Midway was magical. Loved the swimming and riding bicycles.The swimming was so beautiful in the shallow waters and many of us scuba dived. All of the children were raising Fairy Terns that had fallen out of their nests – we would have to catch their food of choice which was minnows -the trap of choice was a tennis racket covered in small wire:). Of course there was stepping clear of Goonies (when possible)and collecting Boloson bird tail feathers. When we were at the beach and in the water we collected shells and fish balls (Japanese glass balls that were used to hold fishing nets) they were all sorts of sizes in beautiful shades of green and aqua
    It remains one of the most memorable times of my life.

    Donna

  19. Gary
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Lived on Midway in 1965 -1966 mostly on Eastern island. When not on watch, spend many hours walking the beach and watching the birds. Yes, all types of stuff washed up on the beach. However, nothing like the swamp of plastic we see today. It is sad very sad to see what we have done to truly destroy the lives of these beautiful birds. The biggest challenge I remember the baby birds had was landing in the lagoon during their first flights because the lagoon filled up with sharks during the time the young birds start to learn how to fly. Those who had the misfortune of landing usually did not know how to take off from water and were quickly consumed by the sharks.

    Gary

  20. geraldine conrad
    Posted October 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    My husband and I taught school on MIdway in 1962-3. We loved the island and have fond memories 0f it. We were there when one of the Mercury astronauts capsule was brrought to the Island. We would love to hear from anyone that was there during that time period.

  21. dennis buster
    Posted January 21, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    I was there in1960 I was the gym manager and also boat house attendent . I pulled skiers a lot . Friends i remember were the Alamedias,Gail ,Diann,Charles.Wood love to hear from any one that remember us.

  22. Ron Whipple
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I was stationed on Midway Island, 1975-1976 as a C-117D pilot and I never saw this much trash. Perhaps one of the few pluses of human occupation was that we kept the island clean. I never saw a bird carcass like those shown of birds that died of object ingestion. I would dearly like one day to volunteer for a cleanup expedition if one could be put together. And I would definitely support an international effort to address dumping garbage at sea. It’s sad to see the first-hand damage of irresponsible behavior like this.

  23. Deb
    Posted February 22, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    The trailer images are incredibly powerful and disturbing; they alone tell so much of the story. I’ve looked at the blog and the rest of the site. I am wondering if you are including a very specific plan of action here — showing the footage without it will leave the viewers feeling even more despairing and guilty than they did beforehand. Saying that on a global scale we need to do a better job isn’t very helpful — lots of people are doing this in both personal ways, and in larger scale ways. But with an issue like this, clear, specific steps need to be outlined. What has to be done to clean up this specific island; what can address the continuing influx of waste deposits there. Clearly, the numbers of albatross on the island are huge — are there ornithologists weighing in on how it’s possible for such a tiny island to provide food for this many birds? Perhaps a lack of sufficient food for them is also contributing to the reason they are eating the plastic (and perhaps the plastic is preventing healthy food from growing there.) A complete picture of this issue is needed — the photos of the birds needs to be the starting point of an assessment and a thorough plan that can be used as a basis for recruiting agencies that can address the problem. Thanks for all you are doing.

  24. Derrick Steed
    Posted February 24, 2013 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    Purely in the interests of accuracy and so as not to diminish the impact of the message you are attempting to convey to an ignorant and indifferent world (not I, I’m interested).

    3rd paragraph, first sentence: “the first trans-atlantic cable” – in the middle of the Pacific ? That would have magnified the already not inconsiderable logistical and technological challenges would it not ?

    I think you mean “the first trans-pacific cable”

    Best regards,

    Derrick Steed.

  25. Posted February 25, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    So – The money that is donated goes to support the film and not to help cure the environmental issues that the film is about – is this correct?

  26. Barrie Wilber
    Posted August 11, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Some of these comments brought back really great memories. I lived on Midway from 1966-1969 when my dad was in air traffic control. We saw the U.S.O. shows that came in with Bob Hope and President Nixon with his visit. Watching the gooney birds taking off and landing never got old! Midway holds many, many great memories for me and my family. It’s hard to see it in the shape it is in now.

    Barrie Wilber

  27. Val Winn Conde
    Posted September 18, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    my father was stoned on Midway from 1952 to 1954. Our family joined him there and my youngest sister was born there in 1954. I have such fond memories of the Goonies and the beach. It was fascinating to be some of the first kids on the island after WWII . Everything was just left as if someone said time to go and they all did. Our school was at the old cable company. All the equipment was there as is. I hope attention can be drawn to our plastic problem. I see it where I live in the Florida Keys as well.

  28. Val Winn Conde
    Posted September 18, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    I just posted, but my ipad self corrected. My father was stationed, not stoned on Midway. I do know he had a few beers there.

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  • MIDWAY

    The MIDWAY media project is a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch. Returning to the island over several years, our team is witnessing the cycles of life and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. With photographer Chris Jordan as our guide, we walk through the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on. And in this process, we find an unexpected route to a transformational experience of beauty, acceptance, and understanding.

    We frame our story in the vividly gorgeous language of state-of-the-art high-definition digital cinematography, surrounded by millions of live birds in one of the world’s most beautiful natural sanctuaries. The viewer will experience stunning juxtapositions of beauty and horror, destruction and renewal, grief and joy, birth and death, coming out the other side with their heart broken open and their worldview shifted. Stepping outside the stylistic templates of traditional environmental or documentary films, MIDWAY will take viewers on a guided tour into the depths of their own spirits, delivering a profound message of reverence and love that is already reaching an audience of tens of millions of people around the world.


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