INFORMATION FOR ALL HANDS
April 26, 1941.
The Henderson expects to arrive at Midway Island, the
most western of the Hawaiian Islands, about noon tomorrow. There is
not very much to it, but it is becoming increasingly important, and it
has a very interesting history of shipwrecks, murder , and starvations.
Sometimes it is called the MIdway Islands because of the two patches
of land that lie within the reef, but properly, it is one formation
and one island.
As discoveries go, Midway was found only recently. An American
named Brooks took possession in the name of the United States in 1859.
He must have discovered it by chance, however, because it does not
rise very far above the water; the encircling reef is only 5 feet high.
In 1867, the U.S. government, in the person of Captain Reynolds, of the
U.S.S. Lackawanna took possession, and the island was named Midway
because of its relative position to the Orient and the North American
At that time, there was some thought of making
the island a coaling station, and the government spent some money on
harbor improvement. The attempt was abortive, however, and the island
fell out of the news and the thought of men for 17 years.
The next thing to assume importance was the reef.
For some reason, it seemed that all that a ship had to do to be wrecked
was to come near the island reef. There is a record that at one time
between 29 and 37 catasways, survivors of two different shipwrecks,
were marooned, and of this group, all but 16 perished from eigthr
malnutrition or scurvy.
Midway first began to assume real importance when
J. W. Mackey of the Commercial Pacific Company decided to use it as a
relay station for his Trans-Pacific Cable. In 1903, the job of laying
the cable was completed, and communication was established around
Midway is a much more attractive island now than
when it was first discovered. Where once there was only sand and birds;
there are now trees, various plants, and animal pets. The wild
blowing sand has been tamed with a wire grass, and visiting ships
have brought additional soil to enlarge the gardens. The bird
population has contained, and the latest estimate is that there are
over a million there today.
Much has happened to Midway in recent years.
First, the Pan American Airways made it a way station, and accommodations
had to be made for the Clipper ships. Then the Navy decided that
Midway was essential to the defense of Pearl Harbor, and now work
is going on to make a larger channel, building of roads, a 3100
foot breakwater high enough to provide wind shelter for seaplanes,
and a satisfactory anchorage.
Roy E. Le Moina.
Lieut. (jg), Chc., U.S. Navy.