small and remote island group with no hotels, the Midway Atoll
would appear to be an unlikely tourist destination.
But the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service is working on a plan to bring tourists to Midway
Atoll as soon as the spring.
A fly speck on a map
of the Pacific, the Midway Atoll consists of three tiny islands
fringed by a coral reef on top of a submerged volcano 1,250 miles northwest of
Honolulu. Sand Island, the largest of the islands and the only one
with buildings, measures 1.8 miles long and 1.5 miles
What put Midway on
the map was its importance as a naval base during World War II and
as the site of the 1942 Battle of Midway, which many credit with
being the turning point of the war in the Pacific
According to Barry
Christenson, refuge manager of the Midway Atoll National Wildlife
Refuge, there is demand for visits to the atoll among adventure
travelers, former residents, people with an interest in history and
emphasized that the plan is still in preliminary stages and would
have to be approved by the three government agencies that share
jurisdiction over the territory: the State of Hawaii, the National
Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration under the Dept. of
Commerce and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Dept. of
If tourism is
allowed, visitors would fly into Sand Island on 15-passenger,
chartered planes and stay for about a week in the former Bachelors
Officers Quarters-C or "Charlie Barracks," which was renovated in
"We're thinking of
maybe bringing in 100 people for the year," Christenson
Initial forays would
be on a trial basis, in hopes of finding partners in the travel
industry that could expand the operation.
"We're looking for
partners to help with transportation, marketing and so forth," he
said. "It's a small program. To do it on our own is not
sustainable. We're not tour operators or travel agents; we're
One thing that would
distinguish Midway as a tourism destination is the fact that it
holds three federal titles.
In 1988, Midway was
designated the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
In September 2000,
Midway was designated the Battle of Midway National
On June 15, 2006, a
1,200-mile stretch was designated as the Northwest Hawaiian Islands
Marine National Monument. Midway is at the northern edge of that
Visitors would be
drawn by the monument to the war, Christenson said, but upon
arrival would be "completely enthralled and captivated" by the
everywhere here and crystal-clear, green water. It's just
beautiful," Christenson said. "Even people who aren't wildlife
lovers find themselves carried away with it. It's like living in a
National Geographic TV show."
Midway has the largest colony of albatrosses in the world and is
home to green sea turtles and spinner dolphins.
No tourists have been
able to visit Midway since January 2002 when Midway Phoenix Corp.
pulled out of its contract to operate tourism, citing financial
losses and disagreements with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Under
its agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service, Midway Phoenix
had provided transportation and worked with partners to offer
diving, fishing and ecotours since 1997, after the closing of the
Midway Phoenix has
since disbanded, according to Barbara Maxfield, external affairs
chief for the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Before it was a naval
base, Midway was uninhabited. N.C. Brooks, an American captain of a
sealing ship, discovered it in 1859 and claimed it for the U.S.
When tensions built in the Pacific between the U.S. and Japan, the
U.S. established a naval base there in 1940.
On June 4, 1942,
there were 4,000 Americans stationed in Midway when Japanese
warplanes bombarded the atoll. After extensive air and sea battles,
the Japanese called off a land invasion on June 5.
In 2007, Princess
Cruises is sailing the 1,590-passenger Regal Princess to Midway.
The cruise departs on May 28 from Los Angeles and arrives in Midway
for the 66th anniversary of the Battle of Midway on June
contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].