By Pamela Barrus
The TCC list is not meant to be easy. Some members have waited 20 years or more for a destination on our list to open up. Right now Midway Island is one of our most difficult “countries” to get to since its visitor program ended in 2012.
Why is it so hard?
Entry into Midway is heavily restricted and requires a special permit to visit from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Unfortunately, permits are currently suspended until further notice. As always, watch the websites, such as fws.gov, papahanaumokuakea.gov, oceanicsociety.org or miltours.com to see when visitor programs are reinstated. The official word is that the Fish and Wildlife Service would like to start up the visitor program again but lack funding for additional personnel and repair of deteriorated infrastructure.
But is there a way?
Yes, but it’s not for everybody. If you’re reasonably fit, you can apply for a volunteer position on the annual nesting albatross census. Experience in bird counting is not a requisite. The length of commitment is from mid-December through the first week of January, which is the only time of year the census is carried out. You will be expected to walk up to several miles a day, work as part of a team, and follow directions. Only a dozen non-experienced volunteers a year are accepted to work alongside experienced counters. Accommodation is barracks style with shared bathrooms. Reduced airfare costs between Honolulu and Midway are incurred by the volunteer. See the fws.gov/refuge/Midway_Atoll Web site for further details.
What to do/See
Birds and more birds! Over three million individual birds from 23 species — including albatrosses, boobies, curlews, noddies, petrels, and terns — reside on the three small islands that make up Midway
Atoll. Planes are only permitted to land at certain times so as not to disturb the birds on the runway. Without any predators birds flourish here like no other place on earth. Part of the greater region of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, all wildlife is federally protected.
In times past when visitors were allowed to overnight, general activities included wildlife photography, snorkeling, kayaking, and diving.
Midway is also the site of the decisive World War II Naval battle of the same name, and the island has been designated a National Memorial in recognition. Commemorative ceremonies are still held. Historic structures of the era remain in various stages of repair and disrepair. Efforts are being made to recognize and preserve their historical significance, but again everything depends on funding.