Carmel Magazine

Spring-Summer 2019

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174 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 9 Restoring Nature Piece by Piece Helping with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service census, Pacific Grove's Jan Loomis traveled to Midway Atoll, the world's largest albatross colony. (Right) This pair of Laysan albatrosses will return next year to build a nest. Local Woman Volunteer s at Midway Atoll BY MIKE HALE A spit of sunbaked sand far out in the Pacific Ocean reveals much of what is wrong about the world. But heartbreak and hope keep close company on Midway Atoll. Some see this remote, tiny chain of volcanic islands as godforsaken, haunted by the specter of war, a vivid case study in mankind's destruction of the planet. Pacific Grove's Jan Loomis prefers a more determined and optimistic opinion. She calls Midway Atoll by its two Hawaiian names: Pihemanu, meaning "loud din of birds," or Kuaihelani, which trans- lates to "backbone of heaven." Loomis' idealism, drive and love of nature and birding led her to achieve a once-unthinkable bucket list item—to visit this undeveloped, unincorporated atoll at the far northern end of the Hawaiian archipelago. You can't just book a ticket to Midway on Expedia. The last tourist departed in 2012, leaving 40-50 inhabitants (volunteers and federal employees) focused on airfield management and con- servation. Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial are cur- rently closed to public visitation. Loomis found her way, though, as a volunteer for an exclusive nesting albatross census team led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Midway's administrative agency. Following exhaustive interviews and background checks, the 60-year-old staff RN for Visiting Nurses Association's Travel Medicine Clinic received word last fall that she had been accepted as one of only a dozen volunteers among worldwide applicants. In December, Loomis—who once left a job to spend three years living on a sailboat to explore the coast of Mexico—flew 3,000 miles and shelled out roughly $3,000 for the "privilege" of living six weeks in dilapidated former U.S. military barracks. Her mission? To count nesting Laysan alba- tross at this haven for 3 million individual birds, and home to the world's largest albatross colony. "Giving back was the key, doing something completely selfless," she says. "It was a privilege to be there and participate in a critical bird count." Documenting the albatross population provides a clearer picture of the state of our oceans and the ravages of climate change and pollution. Photo: Jan Loomis

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