Midway Islands

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Midway Islands
Midway Atoll aerial photo 2008.JPG
Waters Pacific Ocean
archipelago Northwest Hawaii Islands
Geographical location 28 ° 13 ′  N , 177 ° 22 ′  W Coordinates: 28 ° 13 ′  N , 177 ° 22 ′  W
Midway Islands (all of Hawaii)
Midway Islands
Number of islands 3
Main island Sand Island
Land area 6.23 km²
Lagoon area 60 km²
Residents 40 (scientist)
Orthographic projection
Orthographic projection
Template: Infobox Atoll / Maintenance / HoeheFehlt

The Midway Islands , also known as Midway Atoll ( Hawaiian : Pihemanu , English Midway Islands or Midway Atoll [ ˈmɪdweɪ ]), is an atoll in the northern Pacific Ocean , which belongs to the outskirts of the United States as a "non-incorporated territory" and for statistical purposes assigned to the United States Minor Outlying Islands .


The islands are about a third of the way from Honolulu to Tokyo and about halfway between California and Japan , hence the name. The Midway Atoll is part of the Hawaii-Emperor Island chain that stretches from Hawaii to the Aleutian Islands. Midway consists of a ring-shaped coral reef about 10 km in diameter and two main islands, Sand Island and Eastern Island , as well as several small islets that serve as breeding grounds for hundreds of thousands of seabirds . The total area of ​​the islands is about 6.2  km² , that of the entire atoll including lagoon and reef rim is about 83 km².

Map of the atoll
The atoll at a glance
island Area in
Sand Island 4.86
Eastern Island 1.35
Spit Island 0.02
Sand Islet
Midway Atoll 6.23
lagoon 60.00

The atoll is geographically part of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands , but does not belong to the US state of Hawaii . The Midway Islands are - like all islands in the archipelago - of volcanic origin. They belong to the northernmost elevations of the islands and seamounts of the Hawaii-Emperor chain that can still reach the sea surface .

The Midway Islands are in the UTC − 11 time zone .


Originally uninhabited, the islands now have around 40 inhabitants, mostly scientific staff, but no permanent population. In 1978 there were up to 2,300, mostly military and civilian employees of the naval base of the United States Navy .


Unofficial flag of the Midway Islands
The Midway Atoll (1941)

The Midway Islands were the captain of the 9 July 1859 Gambia , NC Brooks, discovered and on 28 August 1867 by the United States , citing the Guano Islands Act annexed , ie 30 years before the other Hawaii islands. At first they served mainly as a station on the way from California to Japan. In 1903 Midway became a stopover for the transpacific cable of the Commercial Pacific Cable Company . After complaints about Japanese fishermen, the islands were under the US Department of the Navy from 1903. From 1935, Pan American Airways used Midway as a stopover for its Martin M-130 flying boats . 1940 was Air Force Base of the US Navy established.

The islands became famous through the Battle of Midway (June 4 to 7, 1942), which was fought between Japan and the USA as one of the decisive battles during the Pacific War in World War II . Japan lost four aircraft carriers and had to abandon attempts to occupy Midway. Midway was a major submarine base from 1943 to 1945. During the Korean War and the Vietnam War , Midway was used as a stopover for transport machines.

With the end of the Vietnam War and the introduction of reconnaissance satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, the islands' military importance for the United States waned. As a result, the operation of the air force base was discontinued in September 1993; the last US Navy personnel left the atoll in June 1997 after clean-up work.

As early as 1988, still under the administration of the US Navy, the area was declared a National Wildlife Refuge . On October 31, 1996, a presidential decree transferred control of the atoll to the US Fish and Wildlife Service of the US Department of the Interior , which has since managed it as the Midway Island National Wildlife Refuge . The islands have been part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument since 2006 . Some tourism is also allowed. The runways on Eastern Island have fallen into disrepair, while the airport on Sand Island - Henderson Field (IATA: MDY, ICAO: PMDY) - continues to be maintained as an emergency landing site for large commercial aircraft that cross the Pacific according to ETOPS rules. On July 12, 2014, a Boeing 777 operated by the US airline United Airlines with 348 people on board was able to make an emergency landing on Midway after a smell of fire in the cockpit during the flight from Honolulu to Guam Island .


Albatrosses on Midway

The Laysanal and Black-footed Albatrosses on Midway populate the entire islands and live in close proximity to the island's human inhabitants. The two German animal filmmakers Hans Schweiger and Ernst Arendt have created a monument to them in their film “Landung frei für Albatrosses”. Among other things, they show how albatrosses were "collected" from the runway of the airfield before an aircraft could take off.

In 2004 42 Laysan ducks were released into the wild on the Midway Islands . This extremely rare species of duck has only been found on the small island of Laysan since at least 1834 . In 1930 only one female and several males lived, but there was a very strong recovery after the guano mining stopped on the island, the island was completely abandoned and it was declared a bird sanctuary. At the beginning of the 1990s, more than 800 individuals were found in the wild again. In 1993, however, an extreme drought and an outbreak of botulism caused the populations to drop again to 83 individuals. In order to reduce the risk of such strong populations in the future due to local events, 42 Laysanent dogs were relocated to the Midway Islands in 2004. The resettlement proved successful. More than 50 chicks hatched in the first breeding season.

In 1963, a shearwater was discovered on Sand Island, which was only described as the new species Midway Shearwater in 2011 .

The Midway Islands are on the edge of the Pacific garbage vortex . The plastic waste in the ocean threatens marine life as well as the birds immediately. The film "Albatross" by Chris Jordan takes on this problem and the trailer of this film has reached a broad international audience since 2012 and the film itself since 2017. The focus of this film is to show the stark contrast between the serene beauty of nature and the human-made litter that leads to ongoing animal deaths.


  • Edwin Horace Bryan : American Polynesia and the Hawaiian Chain . 2nd revised edition. Tongg Publishing Company, Honolulu, Hawaii 1942 (English).

Web links

Commons : Midway Islands  - collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wikimedia Atlas: Midway Islands  - geographical and historical maps

Individual evidence

  1. Midway Atoll ( Memento of March 3, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) in the island encyclopedia oceandots.com , accessed on June 9, 2017 (English).
  2. CIA World Factbook: United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges: Geography - Midway Islands. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  3. ^ Atoll Area, Depth and Rainfall. (PDF; 36 kB) Hawaiian: Midway. In: rock.geosociety.org. Geological Society of America , p. 1 , accessed June 9, 2017 .
  4. Midway. United States Department of the Interior - Office of Insular Affairs, archived from the original on February 4, 2012 ; accessed on June 9, 2017 (English).
  5. ^ Midway Islands History. In: Jane's Oceania Home Page. Jane Resture, archived from the original on September 17, 2019 ; accessed on June 9, 2017 (English).
  6. ^ US Unincorporated Possessions. Midway Islands. In: World Statesmen.org. Retrieved June 9, 2017 .
  7. Emergency landing in nowhere - Boeing has to head for a tiny Pacific atoll. In: n-tv.de. n-tv Nachrichtenfernsehen GmbH, July 12, 2014, accessed on June 9, 2017 .
  8. Dominic Couzens : Rare Birds: Survivors, Evolutionary Losers and the Lost - 50 portraits . Haupt Verlag, Bern 2011, ISBN 978-3-258-07629-4 , pp. 25 (English: Atlas of rare birds . Cambridge, Massachusetts 2010. Translated by Coralie Wink and Monika Niehaus ).
  9. Dominic Couzens: Rare Birds: Survivors, Evolutionary Losers and the Lost - 50 portraits . Haupt Verlag, Bern 2011, ISBN 978-3-258-07629-4 , pp. 27 .
  10. Chris Jordan : Albatross - a love story for our time from the heart of the Pacific. The film premiered in May 2017. In: Albatross the Film. Retrieved June 9, 2017 .