January 18, 2019

Remote Hawaiian island vanishes following powerful hurricane

27 October 2018, 10:55 | Edward Lowe

Remote Hawaiian island vanishes following powerful hurricane

Researchers confirmed East Island in the French Frigate Shoals received significant damage as a result of Hurricane Walaka — a powerful Category 4 storm — roaring over the islands

East Island was just over four hectares but was important ecologically.

The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument's website states there is a marine debris team working in the area that will stop at French Frigate Shoals and conduct a "preliminary assessment of the damage and impacts to wildlife".

Hurricane Walaka that is now raging in the Pacific, destroyed a remote island in the North-West of Hawaii. Now it's beneath the sea, washed away by a hurricane. Each year about 200 of the seals visit East Island, and about 30 seals have their pups there, Littnan estimated, noting that there are only about 1,400 of the animals in the world. As HuffPost reported, the island, which was a half-mile long and 400 feet wide, was a crucial habitat for the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal and several species of seabirds.

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Service of protection of fish resources and wildlife, the US released satellite photos of Hawaiian Islands before the storm "Balak" in the Pacific ocean and beyond.

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. As the hurricane was about to descend on the archipelago, seven researches studying endangered green sea turtles and monk seals were evacuated.

East Island, a small island in the French Frigate Shoals located about 550 miles northwest from Honolulu, has apparently been swallowed by the sea after a recent storm surge in the wake of Hurricane Walaka.

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East Island, which is part of French Frigate Shoals in Hawaii's Northwestern islands, pictured in May 2018. Fletcher added that it's another issue "in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled".

Thankfully the turtles had already left the area for the season, so weren't hit by the storm, but may face trouble when they return.

Randy Kosaki, the monument's deputy superintendent for research and field operations for NOAA, told Honolulu CB: "The take home message is climate change is real and it's happening now". 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.

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