Hurricane Walaka in Pacific Ocean wiped Hawaii's East Island off map

Gwen Vasquez
October 27, 2018

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

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 wiped out a small Hawaiian Island; drone footage taken prior to the hurricane shows the island when it still existed.

"It's a really powerful example of the power and potential of nature that overnight an island was washed away", Littnan said. A third of those used to live and breed on East Island.

At the moment, researchers are trying to understand what harm the disappearance of the island may cause to the animals.

Honolulu Civil Beat posted satellite images on their Twitter showing the disastrous effects of the monster storm.

Dr. Chip Fletcher, a climate scientist at the University of Hawaii, told the Honolulu Civil Beat, which first reported the island's disappearance, that he was doing research on East Island in July.

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The Hawaiian monk seals - there's only about 1,400 of them left in the world - spend most of their time on the island lying under the sun and resting on its beaches.

When most people think of Hawaii, they think of a series of paradise islands, like the Big Island, Maui, O'ahu, and Kaua'i.

One of the most intense Pacific hurricanes on record at its peak, Walaka buzzed just 70 miles west of East Island as a major Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph, walloping Hawaii's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Green sea turtles, which are also threatened, and seabirds such as albatrosses, which often had their young preyed upon by circling tiger sharks, also depended on the island.

East Island was only a half-mile long and 400 feet wide, but it was the second-largest island in the French Frigate Shoals.

Just days after one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the Pacific, one remote Hawaiian archipelago was all but gone. Fletcher added that it's another issue "in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled".

"The take-home message is climate change is real and it's happening now", concluded Kosaki.

Its sinking threatens the future of two endangered species - Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles - for whom the island was a vital habitat.

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