Cry Of The Ancient Mariner

Even in the middle of the deep blue sea, the albatross feels the hard hand of humanity

At the lonely center of the North Pacific Ocean, farther from just about everything than just about anywhere, lies Midway Atoll. I've come with Canadian writer Nancy Baron to the world's largest Laysan albatross colony--400,000 exquisite masters of the air--a feathered nation convened to breed, cramming an isle a mile by two.

Ravenous, goose-size chicks so jam the landscape that it resembles a poultry farm. Many have waited more than a week for a meal, while both parents forage the ocean's vast expanse. An adult glides in on 7-ft. (2-m) wings. After flying perhaps 2,000 miles (3,200 km) non-stop to return...

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