We were given permission to tour Strawn Island, directly west of Cooper Island (map), the only island on the actual wildlife reserve portion of Palmyra Atoll where unaccompanied public access is allowed.
Several idyllic coves are along the lagoon side en route. Slightly less idyllic is the cove below right, the site where the bone’s identified as Muff Graham’s, of the Sea Wind murders, washed ashore and were found.
The sand flats here are a productive black-tipped reef shark nursery. We saw many, ranging from less than a feet long to over four feet long, cruising in water perhaps a foot deep. The sharks aren’t interested in humans and generally keep their distance, so we weren’t too concerned being in the water. But we did keep an eye on them.
A little farther along is the ruins of an old military powerhouse. We climbed a ladder to the roof for a sweeping view north.
The Norwest Gun Battery was once on the extreme northwest tip of Strawn Island and is slowly becoming part of the sea.
Walking back along the north shore, turtles were swimming just offshore with lots of boobies in the trees and the sky.
The tide was too high to continue alongshore, so we picked up the trail back in the woods. A pair of White Terns, apparently curious, swooped and wheeled only 3-4 feet above us for a good five minutes as we walked. They’re beautiful, delicate-looking birds.
We popped back out to the north shore to check out some offshore bunker ruins.
Near where Cooper and Strawn Island connect is a massive Sooty Tern nesting area. They prefer flat wide-open spaces–this is one of several areas the Palmyra Atoll staff have cleared to keep the terns off the runway. Thousands upon thousands of birds are here, on the ground and filling the sky above. The terns will often take off, fly around, then land as a group. We were out on the water with Amanda one time and passed under a literal cloud of Sooty Terns. “It’s a Ternado!” she joked.
We cooled of after the walk on the rope swing at the swimming hole (44, bottom right on map).