Remote Hawaiian island vanishes following powerful hurricane

27 October, 2018, 22:56 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Hawaiian Island erased by one of 2018's many Cat 5 storms

Hawaii News Now reported aerial photographs taken after the storm show sections of East Island have resurfaced. Another of the French Frigate Shoal islets, Whale-Skate Island, eroded until it was completely submerged in the 1990s and it has not returned.

A statement by the federal managers of the monument said that East Island "appears to be under water", while the neighboring Tern island had its shape altered by the hurricane. While the islet is small - only about a kilometre long, and 120 metres wide - it is a critical habitat for the Hawaiian monk seal, Hawaiin green sea turtle, and several species of seabirds.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows before-and-after images of the island, and the difference will shock you.

"I had a holt s**t moment, thinking 'Oh my God, it's gone, '" Chip Fletcher, a climate scientist at the University of Hawaii, told the Honolulu Civil Beat.

Due to the timing of the category 4 hurricane, most of the turtles are believed to have already left the island by the time the storm came around.


When the turtles return next year, they may try to find another island on which to nest, Littnan said. Fletcher added that it's another issue "in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled".

East Island, the second-largest island of the French Frigate Shoals, approximately 800 kilometres north-west of Honolulu, is also a crucial pupping ground for endangered monk seals. Threatened green sea turtles and albatrosses also depended on East Island for survival.

The same French Frigate Shoals used to serve as the main breeding ground for the seals. But climate change is causing the ocean and atmosphere to warm, making storms fiercer, while there's evidence that hurricanes are moving further north into the latitudes where East Island once lay.

"I was absolutely shocked", Randy Kosaki, NOAA's deputy superintendent of research and field operations for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument told the Washington Post.

Charles Littnan, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's protected species division, explained to HuffPost that it could take years to understand what impact this loss will have on the species that called it home.

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