Posts Tagged ‘Midway Island’

A strange endpoint to Flier’s grounding….

And now for something completely different... | Posted by Rebekah
Mar 23 2011

Boy, when I go underground, I dig deep and never come up for air, huh? I do apologize for that…again.  Thanks for understanding.

An interesting postscript to Flier’s Midway grounding appeared when I was doing the research for this.  After the war, in the 1950’s, Midway was still a thriving base, complete with schools, housing, medical facilities, recreational facilities, ect. ect.  The one thing Midway didn’t have, however, was a well.  There is no source of fresh water in Midway, and no way to get enough through cistern means.

So it’s freighted in on water barges.  In the 1950’s Midway was struck by yet another major storm, and a water barge grounded…pretty much in the exact same spot Flier had a little over ten years earlier.  This barge is half sunk, either its bow or stern (what’s left of it) is still above water, and the rest gently descends below the surface.  The SCUBA sites for midway describe the water barge as a wonderful place to go snorkling, see fish, take photos, provided the tides and currents are all safe enough to do so.

This Water Barge is visible from Google Earth.  Not very detailed, but it is visible:

There you have it. From what I can gather, this is the point where Flier grounded. The Wreck of the Macaw is due west of it, in the deepest part of the channel.

I’ve never been able to find a good photograph of this barge until I stumbled on an old Blog called “Midway Ranger”.  It’s over two years old now, but it’s a fascinating look at what modern Midway Island is.  Only a handful of people stay there anymore, and tourists are strictly regulated.  It’s the main nesting place for a large number of different kinds of Albatross, more commonly known in WWII as “Gooney Birds”.  Nearly three million birds can be found nesting on Midway Atoll, and judging from the photos, they’re not shy one bit!

But this Ranger posted the only photo of this water barge I’ve ever seen taken from the ground.

Actually, I think this photo is quite stunning. I'm told there are monk seals that are quite fond of that wreck too.

Actually, Midway was also hit by the tsunami that struck Japan two weeks ago.  When it hit Midway, it was only five feet high, but it still managed to swamp Spit Island (the smallest), completely cover 60% of Eastern Island, and 20% of Sand Island, the largest, and only currently inhabited island in the atoll.  There was enough warning to evacuate personnel, but the albatross population was hit hard this year.

So there we are.  If you’re interested in more, check these out:

Midway Ranger Blog (interesting look at a year in the life of a Ranger living on Midway Island.

British Article Documenting the 2011 Tsunami Damage of Midway Island

Finally off to war…

Uncategorized, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jan 12 2011

I just wanted to take a moment today to commemorate the 67th anniversary of Flier finally leaving Pearl Harbor on her way to the front.

We don’t know where she was assigned to go: it’s likely that she was part of the advance force for the upcoming battles in the Marianas.  Wherever she was headed, she was assigned to top off her tanks at Midway Atoll.  Since Midway was 1300 miles closer to the front than Pearl, that top-off could make a difference in amount of time or distance allowed to spend on patrol.

Pearl Harbor, now two years into the war, was busting at the seams.  They had only JUST (as in the last two weeks before this date in 1944) finished floating the last casualty of December 7 that was planned to be reclaimed.  The Arizona was going to remain as a memorial, and so was the Utah (albeit unintentionally.  The Utah was simply too old and useless to waste wartime resources to even float enough to salvage.  After all, before December 7, she had been a target ship, a ship the active warships shot dummy torpedoes and guns at to practice aiming and firing.  She was, however, capsized in a main traffic lane. THAT was going to be fixed.)

Nope, the workers at Pearl Harbor, had finally, after two years of engineering, designs and labor,  figured out how to roll the USS Oklahoma over, float her and drag her into drydock.  (Sadly, drydock would reveal that the damage was beyond worth of repair.  The great battleship was, for all intents and purposes “Totalled”.  She was moved to a quiet part of the harbor until 1946 when she was sold to a scrapper.)

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Fascinating example of the engineering ideas that rolled this battleship over. The date on the photo is correct: March 1943. It would still take until December 28, 1943 before she was able to float on an even keel reliably enough to tug her into drydock. Flier would have been there to see that final step.

Another view of the rolling over of this behemoth, taken a few days later. You can see Oklahoma sitting at about a 30-degree list and the cranes with their lines are now on Ford Island. In a rather ironic end to the story, the salvager that purchase Oklahoma was located in San Francisco, and had to tow the hulk of Oklahoma to California. A storm hit about 500 miles out of Pearl Harbor, and Oklahoma did not make it. Despite all the engineering and efforts, Okie chose to remain on the bottom. Which, I guess, is a fitting end for a warship.

The business of war never stopped, and neither was Flier.

Captain Crowley, by this time, was one of the most experienced submarine Commanders.  A Naval Academy grad of 1931, he already had commanded the USS S-28 through five blisteringly cold patrols in Alaska’s dangerous seas.  He’d commanded submarines out of Pearl Harbor, New London, San Diego, and Dutch Harbor, as well as through the Panama Canal.  Despite his experience, there was one major American Submarine port he’d never been to yet: Midway.

But dozens of submarines were in and out of Midway every week.  The channel going into the harbor was narrow, but deeply dredged, and straight, angled due north a 000 degrees.  All you had to do approach from the south, wait for the pilot to come on board, then drive straight north until through the coral wall that surrounded the base.

How hard could this be?

USS Macaw–Consclusion pt. 1

Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 13 2010

While Flier was still wending her way back to the States to be repaired and overhauled, another storm hit Midway Islands.

Macaw had remained hard aground for nearly three and a half weeks, thwarting every attempt to budge her. Twenty-five feet of her stern projected into the carefully cleared channel, not obstructing it, but posing a grave threat in all be the calmest of weather.  Ships and submarines had to carefully nudge past her when they came for fuel or repairs.  During bad weather, many vessels chose to stay outside Midway until the weather cleared (sometimes days later) or pass Midway altogether.

Satellite Photo of Midway Island with a marker showing the approximate location of the Macaw (and earlier, Flier) wreck. Note how close it is to the channel, with the Eastern Buoys missing, it would be easy to think you were in the channel, when you were about to run aground.

Most of Macaw’s crew had long since evacuated, and some of their places were taken by salvage crews from Midway itself, and the salvage vessel USS Clamp (Which had already been en route to Midway for other salvage operations).  It was looking like Macaw might never come free, so the best option was to remove and salvage as much of her equipment as possible and disassemble the hull to clear the channel.

Then the storm hit, and accomplished what had been deemed impossible: move the Macaw.

First she listed, then she began to slide backward into deep water.  The crew onboard were told not to abandon ship, since it was feared that the men would be crushed on the reef, or killed by the violent weather before they could clear the Macaw herself, but soon, Macaw was sliding into the deep water of the channel, and the crew climbed higher and higher into her superstructure and pilot house.

Captain Paul Burton had twenty-two lives  and his own in his hands, and the best he could do was try to keep his crew high enough to keep clear of the pounding waves.  But as midnight approached, and Macaw slid deeper into the canal, the waves broke over her deck, her superstructure, and were licking their way up to the pilothouse where the men sheltered.

All those on Midway could do was keep spotlights on the Macaw and watch.