Published: Sat, October 27, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Storm wipes Hawaiian island off map

Storm wipes Hawaiian island off map

The islands in that area are mostly tiny slices of sand and gravel sitting on top of a submerged, extinct volcano.

"According to recent satellite images, there have been significant changes to French Frigate Shoals", Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument said in a statement.

A small yet important island in Hawaii has been literally wiped off the map following Hurricane Walaka. (Supplied) The aerial photo of the Hawaii East Island shows how it became nearly completely submerged after the hurricane.

In its wake, however, it seems to have caused an island to disappear. It has been a nesting place for the Hawaiian sea turtle and the monk seal.

It's unclear what the damage to local wildlife on the island will be yet, but the signs aren't good.

Researchers Chip Fletcher and Kristian McDonald from the University of Hawaii's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology also took drone footage over East Island in July.

All of the islets had appeared to have been washed over by storm-powered waves in French Frigate Shoals, but East Island had been the hardest hit.


The island was a crucial habitat for Hawaiian green sea turtles and monk seals.

"It's one more chink in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled". Fletcher said that they wanted to monitor the island and are disappointed that it is gone; however, they have learned that the islands are more at risk than previously thought.

But it is possible that East Island will resurface and the turtles and seals will return to their seasonal homes.

On Facebook, Fletcher called the event a "silent tragedy" for the French Frigate Shoals and the marine life that nested there.

"The take-home message is climate change is real and it's happening now", Randy Kosaki, NOAA's deputy superintendent of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, told Honolulu Civil Beat. But climate change is warming the ocean and atmosphere, leading to more powerful and frequent storms.

Charles Littnan, a conservation biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Honolulu Civil Beat that "species are resilient to a point", and while they may find new breeding ground, "there could be a point in the future where that resilience isn't enough".

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