Tern Island, a 26-acre atoll in Hawaii, used to be almost entirely taken up by a naval airstrip that was built in 1942 and abandoned four years afterward, following a tidal wave. Later, the Coast Guard used it as a navigation station.
Before, after, and (presumably) during these military tenures, the island was frequented by many other creatures: green turtles, monk seals, and birds, birds, birds.
Airstrip construction entailed a massive reshaping of the island, leaving it eerily flat and rectangular, but the birds don’t seem to care about that. As you can see on Google Street View, they’re lined up in scores-deep regiments, as if putting on a show of force.
Where most view-able places would have buildings, bus stops, or fire hydrants, on Tern Island there are only birds—on the sand, in the bushes, in the air, and floating just offshore.
Visit Hawaii withAtlas Obscura Trips
Science After Dark: Capturing Squid in the Tides of Oahu
Just beneath the waves off the Hawaiian coast, there are schools of tropical fish, flotillas of sea turtles, and squads of squid. We’re diving in, June 25–30, to explore some of their secrets.