Hawaii will go away

East Island disappeared after hurricane | Can the sunken island
reappear?

Suddenly the island is gone: East Island has been almost completely eroded.

Since Hurricane Walaka hit the Pacific from September 29 to October 9, the 4.5 hectare island has disappeared. East Island was the second largest island in the French Frigate Shoals, the largest atoll in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It is located 900 kilometers from Honolulu.

Now the island is under water, as aerial photos show. the sand was washed away in the storm. But what does that mean? Is the island gone forever now? Or can it reappear at some point?

Climate researchers at the University of Hawaii hadn't expected the island to disappear anytime soon. The problem: it played an important role in the ecosystem. Hawaiian monk seals and green turtles came there to have their offspring.

▶ ︎ By the way, you can take a look around the (former) island using Google Street View.

“I looked at pictures of the island on the Internet and also the various articles on them. The island only protruded slightly from the water before the tropical storm. Due to the light color, the protruding part was very likely composed of sediment particles (sand made from remains of corals and shells, etc.). Tropical storms are accompanied by strong waves. This loose sediment was removed and transported away so that the island no longer protrudes from the water today, ”explains Prof. Gerhard Schmiedl, from the Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability at the University of Hamburg.

“Whether the island can grow again depends on the supply of sediment particles and thus on the growth of the coral reefs and on the sea level. If the sea level continues to rise as before and if the coral reefs continue to be damaged, it is rather unlikely that land will form on the island again. "