East Island was home to hundreds of endangered species of animals. Picture: Google Maps
East Island was home to hundreds of endangered species of animals. Picture: Google Maps

This entire island has vanished

AN ENTIRE Hawaiian island has vanished under the waves in the wake of Hurricane Walaka.

East Island, which is part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and serves as a critical habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles, was basically washed away earlier this month, officials said on Monday.

"I had a holy sh*t moment, thinking 'Oh my God, it's gone,'" Chip Fletcher, a University of Hawaii climate scientist, told Honolulu Civil Beat. Fletcher added that it's another issue "in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled".

Scientists say the disappearance of east island is a huge loss but proves that ‘climate change is real’. Picture: US Fish & Wildlife Service
Scientists say the disappearance of east island is a huge loss but proves that ‘climate change is real’. Picture: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Hurricane Walaka, one of the most intense Pacific storms on record, reached Category 5 in early October with maximum sustained winds of 257km/h.

Scientists say the storm's massive surge, as well as rising sea levels resulting from climate change, factored into the island's disappearance.

Dr Fletcher, who was on East Island in July doing research, told the news outlet he figured the tiny island would be underwater eventually but thought it would take a few decades for rising seas to eliminate it.

The climate scientist and his colleagues had a permit to fly a drone over the island earlier this summer.

It's unknown if East Island, which hosted a US Coast Guard station until 1952, will ever return or what will happen to the displaced animals. Another of the French Frigate Shoal islets, Whale-Skate Island, eroded until it was completely submerged in the 1990s and it has not returned.

"The take-home message is climate change is real and it's happening now," NOAA deputy superintendent of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument Randy Kosaki told Honolulu Civil Beat.

Charles Littnan, a conservation biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said about one-seventh of the world's endangered Hawaiian monk seals were born in French Frigate Shoals, half on East Island.

This story originally appeared on Fox News and has been republished here with permission.


5 things you should never do during Total Fire Ban

5 things you should never do during Total Fire Ban

What you should not do when there is a high risk of fire

Byron Bay Film Festival off to a very French start

Byron Bay Film Festival off to a very French start

Byron Film Festival director says 2019 program will inspire hope.

Lighting a campfire in a State forest will cost you $2200

Lighting a campfire in a State forest will cost you $2200

Ban on solid fuel fires in State forests comes into effect on Sunday