Midway Albatross Count: Day 5

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Midway Albatross Count: Day 5

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Hawaii Island , Kauai , Maui , Oahu
Dec 18, 2008

Today, I debated another member of our team on what day of the week it was.  I said Wednesday; she said Thursday.  Turns out she was right.  I just love it when I lose track of time.

Today’s weather:  Abyssmal.  High 50s.  40 mph wind gusts.  Pelting rain.  And, still, we counted.

Dr. Beth Flint–the woman who has organized this massive undertaking for umpteen years–says this is perfect albatross weather.  Albatross love wind.  The windier the better.  Typically, these soaring birds spend most of their time foraging for food in seas between latitudes 30 degrees and 55 degrees.  Twenty of the 24 species of albatross hang out in the Southern Ocean’s middle latitudes–home of the “roaring forties” and “furious fifties.”   (This comes from Carl Safina’s Eye of the Albatross, a fabulously written book that I highly recommend.  He says albatross don’t fly, so much as they float.)

A team of “Coasties” arrived yesterday.  That is, the Coast Guard.  They limped into Midway with one engine down, because the propeller had lost its hydraulic fuel just five minutes beyond the turn-around point to head back to Honolulu.  Now, they’re stuck here waiting for another plane to arrive with another propeller.  The pilot actually helped count birds yesterday.  He said the prop’s malfunction wouldn’t allow the propeller to adjust its pitch.  I suggested he take flying lessons from albatross.  They can fly hundreds of miles without a single flap of their wings–simply by adjusting the pitch of their feathers.

Albatross may live for high winds, but I don’t.  I am ready for the weather to change.  Alas, I hear it won’t for a few more days yet.

Today’s total clicks of the paint gun:  1,800
Total to date:  9,635

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