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2010 Jun by Veikko Huhtala*
2nd of June 2010 we had possibility to participate for Military Historic Tour to Midway Atoll. It was nice to meet again old MTP fellows as Jorge Sanchez, Robert Bonifas, and many others. Our 737 Continental flight landed to Sand Island Airfield at 1230 PM. Many million albatrosses were waiting us in the both sides of the runway. Biggest population of Laysan Albatrosses is leaving there and also most of the Black Footed Albatrosses of the world. This was really fantastic to see. I had never seen so many birds in the same island in my life. Nobody knows how many these albatrosses are there, but would be something between 2 and 5 millions! First after arriving there was a nice ceremony for soldiers who were been fighting or died on the Battle of Midway, fought on 4-6th of June 1942. This ceremony was very memorable to see. Most of us were come from USA and Japan, but some also from other countries. During this afternoon we walked around the island looking the old historic buildings, etc. Most charming baby albatrosses were watching us, but did not fear at all. I have to say that this was the most miraculous trip in my life and a trip what you can not ever forget. There are living about 70 people in the atoll. Most of them are volunteers who are working there 2-3 months, before returning back to Hawaii or USA. Before our return flight we had nice time in the bar with good food and cold beer. For me it was a little bit sad to live back to Honolulu, but what could I do? I want to thank Military History Tours who gave us possibility to visit first in Wake Island and now in Midway Island. Travelling with them is something special, not as normal tourist trips at all.|
2010 Jun by Jorge Sanchez
I flew from Los Angeles to Honolulu and finally, on June 2, I boarded the plane chartered by Military Historical Tours for Midway Island.|
On this tour, no dinner was organized the night before the flight, as was done on Guam before the flight to Wake. This was probably why the price of the tour to Midway was $100 less than Wake.
On board the plane, there was a large group of Japanese, who were invited by the U.S. government. They were going to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, which was fought from June 4-7, 1942. From this, the Americans would come out victorious. Since then, Japan was on the defensive, suffering defeat after defeat, until their final surrender.
Aboard the plane, I recognized several travelers that had also traveled to Wake.
Carl, Kevin, Veikko and his wife Oili were traveling, plus other travelers whom I knew from the visit to Wake, but I did not know their names.
I noticed this time there were fewer travelers than on the Wake trip, and it’s because Midway has been accessible on tours for bird watchers, from Honolulu, or even on cruises from various ports in California. If Wake represented for travelers the Woodstock of 1969 for lovers of music, Midway corresponded to the festival on the Isle of Wight in 1970.
We landed at Midway atoll at noon. The panorama that spread before us was wonderful: There were hundreds of thousands of albatrosses; some said that there were more than a million, and they were of different species. They stood around at ease without fear of man.
It was a vision that seemed supernatural. Veikko defined it as “miraculous.” For him and his wife, the visit to Midway Island with its albatrosses represented the finest of his travel career.
We attended a very moving official ceremony in which the U.S. military, and American and Japanese veterans participated. All exchanged warm words and made vows that the United States and Japan would always have peace and friendship.
I remember the first speaker, facing the albatrosses that were walking everywhere with impunity, including under the podium from where he was going to talk, joked:
“This is the first time in my life that I’m going to speak before such a large audience.”
After a small snack of sandwiches and cream pastries, some guides suggested we walk to visit the most historical places on the island, but after a while, I got bored and left my group in order to explore the atoll on my own.
Midway was discovered by an American whaling ship in the mid-19th century, and was incorporated into the United States long before Hawaii. Some seventy people live there, many of them volunteers who had offered to study and take care of the albatrosses.
The atoll consists of a circular coral reef with two main islands, Sand Island and Eastern Island. Its beaches are beautiful; it was a paradise to live there as a volunteer.
................................................................................. MIDWAY, IN SPANISH: Para alcanzar este sitio UNESCO volé desde Los Ángeles a Honolulu y un día más tarde al atolón de Midway junto a un nutrido grupo de veteranos de guerra, tanto estadounidenses como japoneses. Las plazas que quedaban las habían vendido a los viajeros para abaratar el costo del vuelo charter. A bordo me encontré con varios viajeros consumados que conocía por haber coincidido con ellos otros destinos. No es frecuente encontrar un avión con destino Midway, pues no es un atolón turístico y se ha de obtener previamente un permiso militar. A veces los cruceros escalan en Midway con turistas ornitólogos, pero no con regularidad. Para mí era una oportunidad única para conocer ese atolón, incluido en el sitio de Papahānaumokuākea. Nada más al aterrizar, hacia el mediodía, hubo una ceremonia militar para conmemorar el aniversario de la Batalla de Midway, acontecida entre el 4 y el 6 de Junio de 1942, donde los americanos salieron victoriosos. Hablaron dos oficiales veteranos, uno americano y a continuación otro en japonés. Todos asistimos con caras circunspectas a la ceremonia, y nos levantamos en señal de respecto al oír los himnos de Estados Unidos de América y del Japón. Tras ello, los soldados americanos nos invitaron a servirnos sin coerción café con leche y bollos de nata. Disponíamos de unas 6 horas de tiempo libre antes de volar de regreso a Honolulu. Lo sorprendente de Midway es la increíble cantidad de albatros autóctonos (conocidos por Albatros de Laysan) que allí vivían. Era su territorio, los pocos humanos que allí vivían (unos 70 entre militares y voluntarios estudiosos de los albatros) eran invasores en su atolón. Nos contaron que en ese atolón, de unos 6 kilómetros cuadrados de superficie, vivían unos dos millones de albatros, la mayor concentración de estas aves en el mundo. No se inmutaban ante nuestra presencia ni nos temían, pues estaban acostumbrados a ser respetados por los humanos. Los machos flirteaban con las hembras. Era una visión que parecía sobrenatural, milagrosa. Así les pareció a la mayoría de los viajeros con los que conversé. Para muchos Midway era el lugar más sorprendente que habían visitado a lo largo de sus carreras viajeras. Para mí Midway representó un lugar mágico. Cuando me cansé de pasear por el atolón esquivando albatros para no pisarlos, me fui a la playa. Allí había una taberna llamada Captain Brooks, donde la comida nos sería ofrecida gratuitamente, pues ya habíamos pagado por ella en el billete del avión. Era buffet libre y las bebidas estaban incluidas. Cuando llegó la hora nos dirigimos al aeropuerto y acto seguido volamos de regreso a Hawaii.