Pearl and Hermes VR Movie:
Click and drag to look around inside of this 360-degree VR experience. Because of YouTube limitations, it’s only interactive in Firefox and Chrome web browsers. On mobile devises, go here to view on the YouTube app, where it’s also possible to use Google Cardboard and other VR headsets for optimal immersive viewing.
(click on the picture below for a tour of 17 panoramas)
Midway Atoll sits roughly halfway between North America and Asia in the northern Pacific Ocean. It has three official designations with the US government: as a National Wildlife Refuge, the Battle of Midway National Memorial and part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The atoll is considered a territory of the US and not part of the State of Hawaii like the other Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are.
The atoll has had many uses and claims to fame, most memorably as a US naval base during WWII that was attacked by the Japanese from June 4-7th, 1942. The US victory in that battle was a turning point in war and one of its most important naval battles. During the Cold War, Midway served as a strategic airfield to monitor Soviet Russia and at one point was home to as many as 4,000 servicemen and their families. The atoll held a school, golf course, movie theatre, church and multiple runways, all on the 1,200 acres of Sand Island. The population wound down with the end of the Cold War and during the 1980’s and 90’s transitioned from military to civilian management administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Midway has always been important nesting ground for seabirds, currently over 3-million annually. Hawaiian Monk Seals raise pups on the wide, sandy beaches and forage for squid and fish on the atoll’s barrier reef. Green Sea Turtles haul out and bask in the sun with dozens of others. Despite pollution still remaining from the military days and washing ashore daily from the Pacific Trash Gyre, Midway is a beautiful and isolated natural wonder.
Use this tour to explore Sand Island, the largest of three islets that make up Midway Atoll, through 17 panoramas of the military ruins, current facilities and natural surroundings. Navigate through them by clicking on red arrow links or utilizing the interactive map accessed though controls in the lower right corner.
Pearl and Hermes Atoll:
Pearl and Hermes sits over a thousand miles west of Honolulu in the central northern Pacific Ocean. It’s one of several islands encompassed in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument established in 2006. Most of the remaining critically endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals live in these waters, as do threatened Green Sea Turtles and thousands of other endemic marine species. Sea birds nest on bits of land that stick above the water, including several species of endangered albatross. These islands are also covered in marine debris that washes ashore from the Pacific Trash Gyre located just north. Chemicals in plastic debris can poison the birds when they unknowingly ingest it and entanglement in abandoned fishing nets poses a serious threat to the turtles and seals.
Use hotspots in this tour to navigate between several islets of the atoll and explore the animals, marine debris and temporary research field camp infrastructure in this distant corner of the United States.
Pearl and Hermes at Night:
The night sky over Pearl and Hermes Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands takes on two very different extremes. With no Moon, the darkness is only broken by starlight, the arc of the Milky Way and a few lanterns that we have in camp. When the Moon returns, though, it’s almost as if another sun has risen. Green Sea Turtles haul out on the beach in greater numbers, birds are more active and life in camp no longer requires a flashlight.
These tents represent the temporary infrastructure of the Hawaiian Monk Seal research field camp, an annual summer deployment of NOAA biologists to assess the population of the critically endangered species.
Taken while setting up the Hawaiian Monk Seal field camp on Laysan for the 2012 season. The Fish and Wildlife permanent camp is also visible on the island’s high ground.
Taken while setting up the Hawaiian Monk Seal field camp on Lisianski for the 2012 season. There are no permanent structures on the island.
All photography permitted under Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument permit #2012-001-L.