We’re the same age.
We were born in the Islands; I have been fortunate to have visited her home island on several occasions. She has flown over 3-million miles; I have over 1-million miles in my Hawaiian Air account.
She represents inspiration and hope – folks on the island named her recent child ‘Mana‘olana’ (Hope.)
They call her ‘Wisdom.’
She lives on Midway, at least during the breeding season she can be found there. She is joined by about a million other Laysan albatross, there. She has had around 35 chicks, nesting each year within 15-feet of prior years’ nests. She’s the oldest known wild bird.
The Laysan species of albatross traditionally mate with one partner for life and lay only one egg at a time, each year. It takes much of that year to incubate and raise the chick.
Laysan albatross are black and white seabirds named after Laysan Island. They stand almost 3-feet tall, weigh 6 to 7-pounds and have wingspans of more than 6-feet.
They spend most of their days out at sea and spend hours gliding on headwinds – they eat mostly fish, fish eggs, squid and crustaceans.
Laysan albatross live on both land and sea. The birds spend nearly half the year in the North Pacific Ocean, touching land only during breeding season.
Its traditional name ‘moli’ means a bone tattoo needle, which was made from the bone of an albatross.
Albatross are famously mentioned in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ published in 1798 …
‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—
Why look’st thou so?’—With my cross-bow
I shot the Albatross.
Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.
The Mariner’s act of shooting the albatross (that had once brought good luck to his ship) is the mother of irrational, self-defeating acts. He never offers a good explanation for why he does it, and his crewmates get so upset that they hang the dead albatross around his neck as a burden, so he won’t forget what he did.
To have an albatross around your neck is to have a constant reminder of a big mistake you made. Instead of the gift that keeps on giving, it’s the blunder that keeps on taking. The phrase has come to mean carrying a great burden. (Schmoop)
Kuaiheilani, suggested as a mythical place, is the traditional name for what we refer to as Midway Atoll. Described in the legend of Aukelenuiaiku, the origin of this name can be traced to an ancient homeland of the Hawaiian people, located somewhere in central Polynesia. (Kikiloi)
According to historical sources, this island was used by Native Hawaiians even in the late-1800s as a sailing point for seasonal trips to this area of the archipelago.
Theodore Kelsey writes, “Back in 1879 and 1880 these old men used navigation gourds for trips to Kuaihelani, which they told me included Nihoa, Necker, and the islets beyond … the old men might be gone on their trips for six months at a time through May to August was the special sailing season.” (Papahānaumokuākea MP, Cultural Impact Assessment)
Look at a map of the Pacific and you understand the reasoning for the “Midway” reference (actually, it’s a little closer to Asia than it is to the North American continent.)
Midway’s importance grew for commercial and military planners. The first transpacific cable and station were in operation by 1903. In the 1930s, Midway became a stopover for the Pan American Airways’ flying “clippers” (seaplanes) crossing the ocean on their five-day transpacific passage.
The US was inspired to invest in the improvement of Midway in the mid-1930s with the rise of imperial Japan. In 1938 the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the lagoon during this period and, that year, Midway was declared second to Pearl Harbor in terms of naval base development in the Pacific.
The construction of the naval air facility at Midway began in 1940. At that time, French Frigate Shoals was also a US naval air facility. Midway also became an important submarine advance base.
The reef was dredged to form a channel and harbor to accommodate submarine refit and repair. Patrol vessels of the Hawaiian Sea Frontier forces stationed patrol vessels at most of the islands and atolls.
The Battle of Midway (June 4-7, 1942) is considered the most decisive US victory and is referred to as the “turning point” of World War II in the Pacific. The victory allowed the United States and its allies to move into an offensive position.
In 2000, Secretary of the Interior designated Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge as the Battle of Midway National Memorial, making it the first National Memorial designated on a National Wildlife Refuge.
Of all the Islands and atolls in the Hawaiian archipelago, while Midway is part of the US, it the only one that is not part of the State of Hawaiʻi.
Today, Midway is administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (a marine protected area encompassing all of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.)
The image shows Wisdom and her chick. (USGS) In addition, I have added other related images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.