Palmyra Atoll Logo

Brooke wraps up with a piece on his and Terry's commitment to protecting the environment and their commitment to each other.

Hundreds of thousands of sooty terns come to Palmyra to breed and nest. These are nesting on the old WWII runway.
©Franklin Viola

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Live Expedition - Daily Journal
May 22nd, 2001

by Terry Tempest Williams

"Of every beast, and bird, and insect small
Came sevens and pairs, and entered in..."

Paradise Lost
John Milton

It's the day after "The Battle of the Boobies," and we survived, barely. Last night, it began to pour and the combination of rain and camp lights disoriented the boobies, both red-footed and brown. Within minutes, they came crashing down on camp. One red-footed booby slammed into the roof of the tent galley and practically fell into my lap. Stunned, it waddled into the kitchen and immediately took possession. Trying to lure the booby outside, I opened the refrigerator for a piece of sashimi, but all I could find was vegetarian pizza and cherry tomatoes. I thought (faulty logic, I know) that a rolling red tomato might catch his eye. Before I could focus, the booby speared the tomato with its deadly beak splattering it all over the white refrigerator doors. The kitchen looked like the scene of a massacre. Resorting to a white towel, we covered the booby and carried it outside where it could rest under the tent awning.

Meanwhile, Russell returned to his tent for some gear, which he described as "running the gauntlet," encountering "a booby with an attitude" who repeatedly tried to spear his calves. Russell and Michael were under pressure to get the day's dispatch sent. The lanai next to the water, where all their computer equipment was set up, became the prime runway for boobies in the storm. As he and Michael were typing away, trying to make connection with the satellite, they were ducking, dancing, and dodging the dozens of boobies flying in, each bird dropping a load of regurgitated fish upon landing. The smell alone demanded their perseverance. At one point, a booby jumped on the monitor and threw up a squid on the screen. By the end of the night, the entire floor of the lanai was covered in booby vomit. (I was actually interested in seeing what kind of fish they had been catching: primarily, mullet and squid.) To say pandemonium had entered Palmyra would be an understatement. But cool heads prevailed, both man and booby, alike, and morning came resplendent.

At breakfast, Yvon was singing "Boobies keep falling on my head" to B.J. Thomas's tune, and Jeff Foott staggered into the galley as though he had a hangover.

"How was your night?" I asked.

"Terrible," he said. "Too many boobies."

And then came Russell and Michael, walking slowly up the path, looking like two men who had not closed their eyes for days.

All of us at the breakfast table applauded our cyberspace cowboys.

"How'd ya'll sleep?" Franklin asked.

"Let's just say it was like sleeping in a bait box," Russell said laughing.

Above the lagoon, boobies sailed and careened on the currents, with memories of last night's storm replaced by the abundance of fish below.

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