Midway Atoll is a 2.4-square-mile atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with three islands covering 1,549 acres. It's small, remote, and an essential landing strip for giant seabirds. More than three million of them plop down on the islands every year, which means it's crowded, especially when the birds decide to lay their eggs. Virtually every square foot has a nest.
Three species of albatross, of which the most prominent is the Laysan albatross—with 450,000 nesting pairs, take up space on the island every winter. Laysans are big birds, with roughly six-foot wingspans. They stay, more or less, for nine months. They are monogamous, for the most part, and can live for up to 40 years. After the pairs land in October or November, they spend some time dancing and clicking and deciding on a nest before laying an egg. The male and female take turns incubating the egg for about two months, fly off on a series of epic journeys to find food for their young over the course of four or five months, and then leave the youngsters alone so they can fledge in June or July.
Photographer and filmmaker Chris Jordan stepped into this scene—carefully, of course—and stayed for a couple weeks. It affected him in a profound way. That's because, as you've probably heard and seen, a lot of the chicks die with large amounts of plastic in their stomachs. Their parents inadvertently scoop up the debris while feeding on squid and other fish at the top of the Pacific Ocean, and regurgitate the plastic into the youngsters' mouths. Eventually, Jordan decided to make a movie called Midway, and he wants to go back. He's hoping to raise $100,000 on Kickstarter to finish his project. We checked in with him to find out a little bit more about his motivation.
Laysan albatross and chick. Photo: Chris Jordan