Published: October 2005
David Liittschwager

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

A fierce storm blew in the first night I was in the Kure Atoll. After it calmed down, I went outside to see how well things had survived. As I was walking, a huge flash of lightning went off, and I saw a beautiful huge frigate bird hovering right in front of my face. It was a spectacle that probably could never be photographed. The scene was so vivid that I felt as if it had been burned into my retina.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

One night Susan Middleton and I were working in the back of a ship where we had three aquarium tanks and eight buckets holding different creatures. But the seas got so rough that we had to stop because things were really starting to move around. So for four or five hours we just sat around babysitting the containers to make sure nothing spilled out. We were lucky we didn't lose anything that night.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

The morning after a big rain on Sand Island, Susan spotted a flooded depression in the ground. There were a number of nests floating in it with Laysan albatross chicks. A couple of the chicks had already drowned, and the others were just barely keeping their heads above the water. So we managed to rescue three of them. We took the chicks back to our house and towel dried them off. Susan even pulled out her blow dryer. After a couple of hours they were perky again, and we were able to rebuild their nests and return them. But out of the three, one was particularly beautiful. Susan named him Soggy, and we took a portrait of him when he was all spiky and fuzzy.