STS055-82-63 Midway Island, Pacific Ocean May 1993
Midway Island, located in the central Pacific Ocean, is the subject of this near-vertical-looking photograph. Midway actually is made up of two islands, Sand and Eastern, each of which is surrounded by a coral reef. A lagoon is visible at the center of the island. The island covers an area of only 2 square miles (5 square kilometers). Midway is not incorporated into the state of Hawaii, but is administered by the U.S. Navy. No native population lives on the island--only a small staff of military personnel; note the military airport runways that can be seen in the photograph. The most famous inhabitants of the island are the numerous gooney birds. Midway is volcanic in origin, having been born nearly 70 million years ago as the Pacific crustal plate gradually drifted northwest over a hot spot--a source of magma far below the Earth's crust--where the big island of Hawaii now sits. As the island volcano gradually moved away from the hot spot, erosion began. The greatest portion of the original volcanic island of Midway has long since been eroded away. Midway Island is famous for the battle fought to the north of the island between Japanese and American Naval forces in June 1942. The battle was one of the decisive Allied victories of World War II.
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